Study Links Magic Mushrooms to Dinosaur-Killing Meteor


Scientists have long linked the mass extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago to a meteor that crashed into the Earth. The event brought about a new era for life on earth, from animals to fungi. 

One of the fungi that seemingly emerged from this period is psilocybin-producing mushrooms, known more commonly as magic mushrooms. A new genomic diversity study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found that the Psilocybe genus emerged much earlier than scientists previously thought: about 65 million years ago, to be exact. That would place the birth of magic mushrooms around the same time the meteor wiped out all the dinosaurs. 

Hallucinogenic mushrooms have held a sacred place in Indigenous Mesoamerican cultures for centuries, and scientists in the U.S. and abroad have been trying to conduct as much research into the fungi as possible, as they still remains a federally banned substance deemed to have no medical benefits. Still, Oregon and Colorado—states that once led the charge in legalizing recreational marijuana—have legalized psilocybin therapy in recent years, opening the door for more Americans to take advantage of its purported psychological benefits. 

The new study is more or less a progress report of years of the scientists’ work. They set a goal in 2020 to get a genome sequence for every Psilocybe type specimen they receive from collections around the world. So far, they’ve sequenced 71 specimens and counting. 

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of collections for doing studies like this,” lead author Alexander Bradshaw said of the research. “We are standing on the shoulders of giants, who spent thousands of people-power hours to create these collections, so that I can write an email and request access to rare specimens, many of which have only ever been collected once, and may never be collected again.”

While recreational mushrooms still remain inaccessible, the new research could be instrumental in opening the door to more use in medical settings

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