New fungus species discovered in national park


Pycnoporellus fulgens (Fr.) Donk, CC BY-SA 3.0

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Unique mushroom discovered in Drents-Friese Wold

A unique mushroom has been discovered in the Drents-Friese Wold National Park. The Pycnoporellus fulgens, as the fungus is officially called, has never been found in the Netherlands and therefore has no Dutch name.

According to mushroom experts, the orange fungus normally only occurs in coniferous forests that have been left alone for a long time. The species is also rare in other European countries. It is found mainly in the middle level mountains in Northern and Central Europe.

“This discovery shows that the beautiful, old spruce woodlands in Drenthe are now comparable to the natural, untouched forests in Scandinavia“, says mycologist Rob Chrispijn, who found the fungus.

The mushroom has not yet been seen in countries bordering the Netherlands. The Dutch Mycological Association is still investigating how the mushroom ended up here, writes RTV Drenthe.

See also here.

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Mushrooms’ colours, new research


This 2015 video is about colourful mushrooms.

From the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany:

Mushrooms: Darker fruiting bodies in cold climates

July 2, 2019

The fly agaric with its red hat is perhaps the most evocative of the diverse and variously colored mushroom species. Hitherto, the purpose of these colors was shrouded in mystery. Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), in collaboration with the Bavarian Forest National Park, have now put together the first pieces of this puzzle.

In nature, specific colors and patterns normally serve a purpose: The eye-catching patterns of the fire salamander convey to its enemies that it is poisonous. Red cherries presumably attract birds that eat them and thus disperse their seed. Other animals such as chameleons use camouflage coloring to protect themselves from discovery by predators.

But climate also plays a role in coloration: Especially insects and reptiles tend to be darker in colder climates. Cold-blooded animals rely on the ambient temperature to regulate their body temperature. Dark coloration allows them to absorb heat faster. The same mechanism could also play a role in fungi, as the research team of Franz Krah, who wrote his doctoral thesis on the topic at TUM and Dr. Claus Bässler, mycologist at the TUM and coworker in the Bavarian Forest National Park suspect. Mushrooms might benefit from solar energy to improve their reproduction as well.

Distribution of 3054 fungus species studied

To test their theory, the researchers combed through vast volumes of data. They investigated the distribution of 3054 species of fungi throughout Europe. In the process, they analyzed the lightness of their coloration and the prevailing climatic conditions in the respective habitats. The results showed a clear correlation: Fungal communities have darker mushrooms in cold climates. The scientists also accounted for seasonal changes. They discovered that fungal communities that decompose dead plant constituents are darker in spring and autumn than in summer.

“Of course, this is just the beginning,” explains Krah. “It will take much more research before we develop a comprehensive understanding of mushroom colors.” For example, further seasonal coloring effects cannot be detected in fungi that live in symbiosis with trees. “Here, other coloration functions, such as camouflage, also play a role.” The researchers also need to study the degree to which dark coloration influences the reproductive rate of fungi.

New Dutch fungus species discovery


This video is called Mycoacia nothofagi – fungi kingdom.

In January this year, Jaap van den Berg discovered this species, for the first time ever in the Netherlands, in woodland near Soest in Utrecht province.

Mycoacia nothofagi lives in many countries all over the world; even in Antarctica. So far, it had not been found in the Netherlands. It has not been found in Belgium yet.

Clavaria argillacea, Dutch Mushroom of the Year


Clavaria argillacea, 13 November 2017

This photo shows the Clavaria argillacea fungus. It was taken in 2017, in the Kootwijkerzand nature reserve, as mentioned earlier in this blog.

The Dutch Mycological Society has named Clavaria argillacea its Mushroom of the Year 2019, as reported on 20 March 2019.

The species used to be common in the Netherlands in the 1930s. About 1980, it had become threatened because of acid rain. Since then, there have been some measures against acid rain. Things are a bit better for Clavaria argillacea now. It is considered no longer ‘endangered‘, but ‘vulnerable‘.

Woodlarks, goosanders and great grey shrike


This September 2017 video shows the nature reserves Kikkervallei and Ganzenhoek near Wassenaar in the Netherlands from the air.

Today, 9 March 2019, with special permission to the Ganzenhoek, an area usually closed to the public.

In the beginning, already song thrush, dunnock, chaffinch and great spotted woodpecker sounds.

A great cormorant flies overhead.

A greenfinch sings.

Woodlarks fly, singing.

A singing robin.

A flying grey heron.

On a lake: tufted ducks, Canada geese and a great crested grebe.

At the next lake, two male goosanders fly away.

Grey lag geese swim.

This 2015 video is about Poronia erici fungi.

We found that small species here on horse dung.

On a third lake, coots swim.

Long-tailed tits on a tree.

A bit further, a great tit.

A chiffchaff calls. Remarkably early for that species. Maybe a bird that is just back from wintering in Africa.

In the next lake, a gadwall couple.

Roe deer footprints.

We are now in the Kijfhoek and Bierlap part of the Wassenaar sand dunes.

A bit further, red fox dung, with remains of mice.

Then, one of the highlights of this morning: a great grey shrike on a treetop.

Cladonia foliacea lichen grows here.

So does heath star moss. An invasive species, originally from the southern hemisphere. Called ‘tank moss’ in Dutch, as it was probably was brought to the Netherlands by World War II tanks.

Nearly at the exit: a green woodpecker calls.

See also here.

Plant and fungi evolution, new study


This 2012 video says about itself:

Fungi: Death Becomes Them – CrashCourse Biology #39

Death is what fungi are all about. By feasting on the deceased remains of almost all organisms on the planet, converting the organic matter back into soil from which new life will spring, they perform perhaps the most vital function in the global food web. Fungi, which thrive on death, make all life possible.

From Virginia Tech in the USA:

A billion years of coexistence between plants and fungi

February 6, 2019

What can a billion years of coexistence tell us about the evolution of plants and fungi?

Neither plants nor fungi existed on land prior to 800 million years ago, an astonishing phenomenon considering their current immense biodiversity, ecosystem dominance, and impact on the environment.

Virginia Tech professor emeritus Khidir Hilu, along with a team of 13 researchers with complementary expertise in botany, mycology, paleontology, and bioinformatics, joined forces to address this question in a large-scale study published in Nature Communications.

“The movements of plants and fungi to land have irreversibly modified our planet physically and shaped their own biodiversity as well as that of the animal kingdom,” said Hilu, professor emeritus of the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science. “Our research shows that the successful plant and fungi invasion of land was an outcome of co-evolutionary interaction between the two that enhanced their biodiversities. These findings are timely considering current issues in climate change and notable extinctions experienced by plants and animals and the impact on our planet.”

The authors noted that although interactions between fungi and plants, including parasitism, mutualism (beneficial to both organisms), and saprotrophy (obtaining nutrients from dead plant parts), have been invoked as key mechanisms to their success, no one has explored contemporaneous evolutionary events throughout their history.

In this article, the authors methodologically explored the evolution of plants and fungi in a multiprong approach using molecular and bioinformatic techniques. They first established robust phylogenies, or evolutionary histories, for plants and fungi independently using gene sequence data generated in their labs or obtained from repositories of genome sequences.

Next, they estimated evolutionary divergence dates of plant and fungal lineages using both gene mutations and reliable fossil records. They then computed major shifts in diversification rates of major lineages in the two kingdoms independently. Once these studies were accomplished, the resulting phylogenetic relationships for plants and fungi were aligned on the same geological time scale, which allowed the researchers to pinpoint the origins of various key plant-fungal co-evolutionary events, particularly symbiotic relationships and the decomposition of plants by fungi. They noticed drastic shifts in diversification rates in the two kingdoms that convincingly showed plant-fungal co-evolution and interdependence across their long history.

The authors reported that fungal colonization of land was associated with and helped by at least two originations of terrestrial green algae, which preceded the origin of land plants. This coincided with the loss, ca. 720 million years ago, of fungal flagellum, a lash-like appendage that helps fungi swim in water.

Conversely, many million years later, during the Paleozoic Era, successful colonization of land by the lineage that eventually gave rise to all terrestrial plants living today was likely facilitated by fungi, specifically through fungal occupation of cells of the earliest land plants, promoting mutualism, which was key to plant and fungi success on land.

One of the significant biological, ecological, and environmental events on Earth is the origin and initial diversification of a lineage containing all plants that bear seeds. Seed plants, which include conifers and flowering plants, emerged during the Silurian Period about 436 million years ago. Significantly, one of the distinguishing traits of this plant lineage was the presence of a distinctive type of cell division that gave rise to wood. This led to the evolution of large woody trees, which in turn, resulted in the establishment of the first inland forests based on lignin-rich wood as their backbone.

Such a move could not have been successful without the linked evolution with fungi and their capacity to digest the structural polymer lignin and cellulose of plant cell walls. This evolutionary novelty was instrumental in organic matter recycling, which led to the forest system being sustained. The origin and early diversification of the seed plant lineage was in turn followed by the evolution of the largest classes of fungi, the Agaricomycetes.

The origin of ectomycorrhizal fungi (fungi associated externally with plant roots) seems to have resulted from a series of evolutionary innovations in plants including the origins of wood, seeds, and roots. These consequential evolutionary events were crucial in promoting the diversification leading to existing seed plants, including cone-bearing plants such as pines, spruces, maidenhairs, and cycads, as well as flowering plants, and their expansion to drier environments.

The latter group, in addition to including most living plant species and major ecosystems, such as forests and grasslands, also encompasses an astounding diversity in form and function and provides almost all of our food plants. Ectomycorrhizal fungi form a symbiotic relationship with plants and can produce networks around the plant roots to aid in water and nutrient uptake, often assisting the host plant to survive adverse weather conditions.

The macroevolution of plants and fungi has been studied mostly separately; however, this study clearly demonstrates that their respective evolutionary histories are deeply interconnected and can be understood only through a simultaneous study of their phylogenies within a robust timeframe.

It is expected that the same will hold true for the evolution of the animal kingdom, a group highly dependent on photoautotrophic plants, as well as microorganisms in general.

The symbiosis of plants and fungi has a great influence on the worldwide spread of plant species. In some cases, it even acts like a filter. This has been discovered by an international team of researchers with participation from the University of Göttingen. The results appeared in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution: here.

Some fungi trade phosphorus with plants like savvy stockbrokers. New details show a fungus shifting its nutrient wares toward more favorable markets. By Susan Milius, 10:00am, June 10, 2019.

‘New’ fungus species threatens old Portuguese cathedral


This November 2017 video, in Portuguese, is about the old cathdral of Coimbra city.

From ScienceDaily:

New family of fungi threatens a UNESCO-listed 8-century-old cathedral in Portugal

January 28, 2019

Summary: A peculiar fungus was retrieved from an artwork in the Old Cathedral of Coimbra, Portugal during a multi-disciplinary scientific survey. The organism was found to belong to the group of microcolonial black fungi, which are infamous amongst conservationists and biologists who care for historic monuments. They cause significant biodeterioration to stone monuments due to their successful adaptation to hostile environmental conditions.

To be listed as UNESCO World Heritage requires special care and protection of valuable cultural monuments and pieces of art from threats such as biodeterioration caused by microcolonial black fungi. The culprits lodge their branch-like structures (hyphae) deep into the stone forming fissures and cracks and also produce polysaccharides that trigger corrosion.

These fungi are well known for their unique resistance to hostile environmental conditions, including extreme temperatures, high solar and UV radiation, severe droughts and low abundance of nutrients. As a result, they survive in hot and cold deserts, saltpans, acidic and hydrocarbon-contaminated sites and exposed rocks surfaces. All of this makes them a particular challenge to conservationists and biologists who care for historic monuments.

During a multi-disciplinary scientific survey at the 8-century-old cathedral Sé Velha de Coimbra (Old Cathedral of Coimbra), which is the only Romanesque cathedral in Portugal to have survived relatively intact since the Reconquista times, scientists retrieved a peculiar slow-growing microcolonial black fungus.

What João Trovão of the University of Coimbra (Portugal) and his colleagues were looking at turned out to be a species of a whole new family (Aeminiaceae) in the order of the sooty mould fungi. The new species, its new genus and the novel family are described in the open-access journal MycoKeys.

To define the new group of fungi, the researchers first scraped off samples from a deteriorated limestone artwork in the “Santa Maria” chapel and then conducted an extensive and integrative analysis, based on morphological, physiological, ecological characters and DNA sequences.

As for the origin of the previously unknown fungus, the scientists hypothesise that the species had ‘arrived’ at the Old Cathedral of Coimbra with the limestone used during its construction. Coming from the unique nearby areas of Ançã and Portunhos, such limestone has been used on several of the “Our Ladies of the O” statues, as well as in the portal of the Royal Hospital in Santiago de Compostela (Spain). Currently, these fungi are considered endemic to the limestone quarries in the Iberian Peninsula.

“Regarding stone monuments exposed to the environment, microcolonial black fungi are considered one of the main culprits for the phenomenon of stone biodeterioration, being responsible for severe aesthetic, biochemical and biophysical alterations,” comment the scientists.

“It is, therefore, crucial to gather deeper knowledge regarding their biodiversity and their biological, ecological and physiological unique characteristics, in order to span our knowledge regarding these fungi and, at the same time, allow the development and improvement of tools to protect stone monuments from their deteriorative effects.”