‘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.”

Advertisements

Portuguese beetle living in groundwater discovered


The newly discovered beetle species Iberoporus pluto. Credit: Ignacio Ribera CC-BY 4.0

From ScienceDaily:

The first case of a Portuguese beetle living exclusively in groundwater

January 8, 2019

A diving beetle demonstrating various adaptations to the life underground, including depigmentation and evolutionary loss of eyes, was discovered at the bottom of a clay pound in the cave Soprador do Carvalho, Portugal. The species turned out to be the very first in the whole order of beetles (Coleoptera) to be known exclusively from the underground waters of the country.

Despite not being able to find any other specimens during their study — save for the single female, the team of Dr Ignacio Ribera, Institute of Evolutionary Biology (Spain) and Prof Ana Sofia P. S. Reboleira, University of Copenhagen (Denmark) identified the beetle as new to science, thanks to its unambiguous morphology in combination with molecular data.

Aptly named Iberoporus pluto in reference to the ruler of the underworld in Greek mythology Pluto, the species was recently described in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

With a uniformly pale orange body measuring 2.8 mm in length and 1.1 mm in its widest part, the beetle is larger than the rest species known in its genus, and its appendages are longer and more slender. While blindness and depigmentation are clear adaptation to life away from sunlight, the elongated limbs and antennae reflect poor swimming abilities needed in a subterranean habitat. Going for 4 km in horizontal direction, Soprador do Carvalho is the largest in the Dueça cave system, located in the north-eastern part of the Sicó karst area in central Portugal. In recent years, the cave is being explored for tourism.

“The knowledge of the subterranean fauna from Portugal has significantly increased over the last decade, with the description of a high number of obligate subterranean species (tripling their number) and the establishment of new biogeographic patterns”, explain the authors of the study. “A high number of these species are stygobiont (i.e. confined to groundwater), mostly from wells in the north of the country, where evapotranspiration is higher.”

European bee-eaters building their nest


This April 2017 video from Portugal says about itself:

European Bee-Eaters Nest Building

We are lucky to have these stunning birds building new nests on our land near the house in Sao Marcos da Serra in the Algarve.

As you can see, they are not exactly in a rush. It takes around 20 days to complete a nest which is about 1m in length with a chamber at the end for the female to lay 5 to 8 eggs.

European Bee-Eaters are known as Belharuco in Portugal. Captured using the Bushnell NatureView Cam HD Max (Live View).

Balearic shearwater video


This November 2017 video from Portugal says about itself:

The Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus) is one of the most threatened seabirds in Europe, since it has a relatively small population, which faces serious threats on land (in Balearic Islands, where it breeds) and at sea (where it spends long periods of time, namely along the Portuguese coast).

The Life MarPro project wishes to draw attention to the dramatic situation that this species faces, directly related with fishing and bycatch. A situation that can be prevented if environmental organizations and fishermen work together to find solutions for everyone, and above all for wildlife. Deploying high contrast panels in the fishing nets is one of the measures that is being tested by SPEA, and which has had promising results. Neither seabirds get entangled, where they frequently end up dead, neither fishermen get their gear damaged.

One of the main Life MarPro objectives is to reduce the conflicts between the fishing sector and seabirds/sea mammals.

Lesser spotted woodpecker in Sweden


This video shows a lesser spotted woodpecker in February 2013 in Sweden.

I was privileged to see a couple of these beautiful little birds in Portugal.

Little egret nest in Portugal, video


This 15 April 2017 digiscoped video from Alvor in the Algarve in Portugal shows a little egret nest with three eggs.