New fungus species discovered in England

Phellodon melaleucus, photo by Michael Beug

From Wildlife Extra:

New species of fungus found on the New Forest

28/08/2009 23:19:18

Remarkable that a new species can be found in one of the most studied habitats

August 2009. The New Forest has confounded conservationists once again by yielding up a species hitherto unknown to science. But even as the new type of ‘tooth fungus‘ was being discovered on the Forestry Commission estate, near Lyndhurst, its future was already uncertain.

Rapid decline

It belongs to the group of ‘stipitate hydnoid‘ fungi, which are in a rapid and worrying decline across the UK.

Ecologist Sarah Oakley said: “The new fungus is a yellow form of Phellodon melaeucus [sic; melaleucus]. Like other species in its group, it can be distinguished by the small ‘teeth’ descending from its cap. They replace the gills or pores commonly found in other fungi. The most amazing thing about it is that it has remained undiscovered for so long in one of the most intensively studied natural habitats on earth.”

Other similar species

Sarah added that the fungus’ true identity had been shielded because there were other similar varieties but with different colour patterns. The secret, she said, finally came out when scientists at Cardiff University isolated the fungus’ DNA and found it to be unique.

The research that led to the find was funded by the Forestry Commission and New Forest National Park Authority. And it will be the organisations’ work in protecting Hampshire’s world famous woodlands that will safeguard the fungus’ future.

Common land

The reason so many rare and endangered wildlife species thrive in the forest is that most of the land has never been ‘improved’ by chemicals and artificial fertilisers. A key part of the New Forest’s long-term management strategy is to protect the ancient ‘commoning’ way of life and agriculture that has made the landscape what it is.

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