Specimen 6b/35-N8 is a giant fungus known for being the world’s most massive and oldest living organism. Located in the Black Forest in Germany, the subterranean mycelium of Specimen 6b/35-N8 stretches over an area of 5,042 square km and is estimated to weigh as much as 400,000 tonnes.
Based on its current growth rate, Specimen 6b/35-N8 is estimated to be at least 11,000 years old, making it the subject of ongoing environmental research and the source of heated debate regarding its perceived intelligence and ability to communicate. The publicity surrounding this debate has made Specimen 6b/35-N8 into a worldwide cultural phenomenon, with appearances in various cartoons, memes, and parodies.
In 2049, Specimen 6b/35-N8 was attacked with a chemical agent, prompting the German government to pass an emergency order for the establishment of an armed cordon in and around the Black Forest.
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Specimen 6b/35-N8 was first discovered in 2035 during an environmental survey in the Black Forest, Germany. A local conservation group noted that different mushrooms sprouting over a wide area were from the same genetic individual, with matching DNA sequences found more than 2,000 km apart.
The fruiting bodies of Specimen 6b/35-N8 were determined to have the outward appearance of other fungi, seemingly emulating the types of mushroom present in the surrounding area. Seven different appearance variations have been documented so far, including Cantharellus and Boletus edulis. It is believed that Specimen 6b/35-N8 remained undetected for so long because of this differing appearance in mushrooms, and because it does not damage the trees it connects to, unlike the “Humongous Fungus” discovered in the late 20th century.
Specimen 6b/35-N8 has an enormous and complex subterranean mycelium that is known to stretch across an area of 5,042 square km, almost the entirety of the Black Forest. The exact weight of the specimen is unknown, with estimates ranging between 302,500 and 460,000 tonnes. Based upon growth rate and environmental factors, Specimen 6b/35-N8 is believed to be at least 11,000 years old, making it the world’s oldest living organism.
The taxonomy of Specimen 6b/35-N8 is the subject of unresolved debate. Due of its unique characteristics, some mycologists argue that it represents a new taxonomic family, perhaps the only one of its kind. Others place Specimen 6b/35-N8 within the Armillaria genus due to its size and the dark rhizomorphs that can be observed on the trunks of trees. They argue that its advanced age and unusually high mutation rates have allowed it to diverge extensively, but that the ancestral spore originated from Armillaria.
Previous giant fungi discovered in the late 20th century were parasitic, acting as a destructive forest pathogen. In contrast, Specimen 6b/35-N8 has a symbiotic relationship with trees and woody plants. It has an independently evolved ectomycorrhizal relationship with the plants and trees in the area it covers. Despite extensive studies, it remains unclear how this symbiosis functions, with the leading theory likening the relationship to other mycorrhizal associations found between fungi and plants.
Environmental History Experiment
In 2037, the Environmental History Experiment (EHE) was created by an interdisciplinary research team with the goal of documenting the history of the Black Forest, using methodologies informed by the extreme environmental turn in the humanities.  The EHE was described as:
A groundbreaking research project that seeks to correct for the human focus of history that has dominated the narratives written about our world for centuries. Using biological, environmental, geographical, and geological data, the team will treat these findings as a kind of oral history, one that allows our environment to “speak” for itself.
The EHE was led by Theo Clement, with funding sourced from a number of institutions and grants, including the University of Cambridge. The additional backing of Zhupao enabled an adapted neural colloid to be introduced to Specimen 6b/35-N8, described as a way of gathering data and allow for the tracking of electrical signals.
In February 2038, the EHE released its initial findings to a lukewarm academic reception. While some applauded the project’s ambitious interdisciplinary collaborations, others questioned the expense of the project and the validity of its methodologies. When Florence Smith Nicholls was asked about their thoughts on the EHE, they responded by saying that “there is certainly potential in this kind of research. However, the experiment’s methodology is an evolution of existing methods, rather than a revolution.”  The EHE was closed after Zhupao pulled its support in December 2039.
Communication with specimen
In March 2043, Clement released a statement claiming to have started communicating with Specimen 6b/35-N8 through deep learning techniques applied to the data generated by the colloid used in the EHE. Clement’s claims continue to be a topic of contention and debate, with the most notable critic being Rowan Xu. The ongoing dispute between Clement and Xu culminated in the livestream of a debate between the two in 2048. 
- Clement, T et al. (September 2037). “The Environmental History Experiment: The Future of the Past.” History Today. ↩
- Williams, Q. (May 2042). “A Conversation with Florence Smith Nicholls: The Past, Present, and Future of Playful Archeology.” The New York Times. ↩
- Thompson, W. (August 2048). “The Clement-Xu debate highlighted everything wrong with academia.” The Guardian. ↩