Arturo Casadevall of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and colleagues have discovered a strain of black fungus capable of utilizing nuclear radiation as a source of energy.
The fungus, Cladosporium sphaerospermum, was growing on the walls of the damaged and radioactive Chernobyl nuclear reactor and was collected by robots:
The fungus was rich with melanin, the same pigment that gives human skin its color, protecting the skin from solar and ultraviolet radiation. Melanin is found in many, if not most, fungal species. [...]
"Just as the pigment chlorophyll converts sunlight into chemical energy that allows green plants to live and grow," so might melanin help fungi make use of ionizing radiation, said nuclear medicine specialist Ekaterina Dadachova at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.