Most magic mushrooms are species of Psilocybe, which nearly all share a cluster of genes that metabolise tryptophan into psilocybin. Two species are widespread in Australia, Psilocybe cubensis (cubes), and P. subaeruginosa (subs). Psilocybe cubensis is likely naturalised in Australia, and its centre of origin is unknown. It is the stalwart species cultivated by recreational growers, who have potentially impacted its genetics by propagating from limited founding genetic diversity and inbreeding over time. The Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board recommended that P. cubensis should be the sole taxon grown to produce psilocybin commercially. Psilocybe subaeruginosa is native to Australia but is not a commercial option, as, in a low percentage of mushrooms, a compound is produced that temporarily paralyses users. This talk will cover how Australian cubes differ from commercially cultivated strains and how knowledge of genetics may be used to select for P, subaeruginosa that do not cause paralysis.
Alistair is a research fellow for the Centre of Horticultural Science (QAAFI), University of Queensland. He studies the evolution of fungal pathogens, with a focus on rust and smut fungi. He has completed postdocs in Africa, America, and Europe. Alistair has started a new research direction for UQ, studying the biodiversity of native psychoactive mushrooms in Australia. This research will determine whether Australian magic mushrooms have evolved unique genetic pathways for the production of psilocybin and confirm the endemicity of our native taxa. Alistair will establish a living collection to safeguard genetic diversity and provide a platform to research the applications of psilocybin for human health.