Call them the Hulk bugs. Just as they do for the comic book hero, gamma rays seem to make certain microscopic fungi stronger. Researchers have found hints that melanin—the same pigment that's the natural ultraviolet filter in people's skin—might enable these fungi to harness the energy of gamma radiation as well as to shield themselves from it.
Microbiologist Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City recalls learning several years ago that single-cell fungi had been found thriving inside the collapsed nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine. He and his colleagues later saw reports that the cooling water in some working nuclear reactors turns black from colonies of melanin