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A Disturbing Twinkie That Has, So Far, Defied Science

Published by Slashdot on Sat, 17 Oct 2020


Apparently Twinkies aren't immortal. After discovering that his 8-year-old Twinkies "tasted like old sock," biologist Colin Purrington sent them to a pair of scientists -- Brian Lovett and Matt Kasson from West Virginia University in Morgantown -- to study the kind of fungus growing on them. An anonymous reader shares the report from NPR: The researchers immediately thought some kind of fungus was involved in attacking the 8-year-old Twinkies, because they've studied fungi that kill insects and dry them out in a similar way. Plus, the reddish blotch on one Twinkie seemed to have a growth pattern that's typical of fungi. [...] They noticed that the wrapping on the mummified Twinkie seemed to be sucked inward, suggesting that the fungus got in before the package was sealed and, while the fungus was consuming the Twinkie, it was using up more air or oxygen than it was putting out. "You end up with a vacuum," Lovett says. "And very well that vacuum may have halted the fungus's ability to continue to grow. We just have the snapshot of what we were sent, but who knows if this process occurred five years ago and he just only noticed it now." A quick examination with a magnifying scope revealed fungal sporulation on both the marred and mummified Twinkies, again suggesting the involvement of fungi. The researchers used a bone marrow biopsy tool to sort of drill through the tough outer layer of the gray, mummified Twinkie. "We certainly hit the marrow of the Twinkie and quickly realized that there was still some cream filling on the inside," Kasson says. From the Twinkie marked with just a dark circle of mold, they were able to grow up a species of Cladosporium. "Cladosporium is one of the most common, airborne, indoor molds worldwide," says Kasson, who cautions that they haven't done a DNA analysis to confirm the species. So far, however, no fungi have grown from the sample taken out of the mummified Twinkie. "It may be that we don't have any living spores despite this wonderful, rare event that we've witnessed," Lovett says. "Spores certainly die, and depending on the fungus, they can die very quickly." They're not giving up, though. They'll fill lab dishes with all kinds of sweet concoctions to try to coax something back to life from the mysterious Twinkie mummy.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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