Fungal hunters on Peddocks Island
Last week I was out on Peddocks Island, one of the 34 islands that form the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation area (BHI). Over the summer our National Park Service intern Lara Kappler from the University of Massachusetts-Boston and myself have been collecting numerous collections of fungi at the BHI in the context of an All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory. Thus far this inventory has led to lists of vascular flora and plant communities, ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae), lichens and bryophytes, butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), and most recently ectoparasitic fungi of beetles (Laboulbeniales). Next up in the project are the fungi. This has been the second year that we are taking boat trips to some of the islands to collect fungi. Mostly it’s just me and Lara. Or me and my undergraduate student Tristan Wang, who is mostly hunting for insects, which then – he hopes – will be infected by a new species of Laboulbeniales. Or just me. Mostly me anyway. (Although Lara went out on her own an awful lot of times this summer.)
I also invite independent mycologist Lawrence Millman to some of these trips and going to the field with Lawrence (say Larry) is always an adventure. You’ll always learn something new (for example, there are very interesting fungi to be found on driftwood), and you’ll always find something (really). Larry travelled all over the world (last week he was probably in Iceland or the Azores) but knows New England region [and then in particular the fungal diversity] like the back of his hand. Last week we landed on Peddocks Island. Larry had invited Joseph Warfel, a professional photographer who specializes in macro photography. Joseph (say Joe) is interested in Arachnida, especially harvestmen (Opiliones). The four of us – me, Tristan, Larry and Joe – had decided to go look for driftwood, but before we knew we were running circles, trying to find the “fairies forest”. (Someone should remove that sign.)
One of the most striking observations we made was the state reptile of Massachusetts, a garter snake (or gardener snake) (genus Thamnophis). This passage got us started on talking about snake fungal disease (SFD), which is becoming more and more problematic in eastern North American snake populations. A recent study pointed out that the causal agent of SFD, Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola (Ascomycota, Eurotiomycetes, Onygenales), is active at a broad range of temperature (between 14 and 35 ºC) and pH (between 5 and 11). This implies that many snakes may be exposed to this pathogen, which apparently can thrive in numerous ecosystems. And there is more. Mortality is 100%; once you get it, there is no escape. Bad news for the state reptile of Massachusetts and many other species of snake. Researchers are combining efforts to find out more about this disease, hopefully they can find treatment options before entire populations are being wiped out..
Back on Peddocks, unfortunately, we did not find any driftwood – the winter storms may have moved a lot of wood around, and campers will sometimes gather driftwood. No obscure fungi from driftwood this time. (Obscure? Not really, truth is that almost no-one has been looking for fungi on driftwood. Except then for Larry.) We did find twenty something collections of fungi, some very common, some interesting for further study. The list of collections made is given below.
All photos (c) Joe Warfel.
Species list for August 29, 2015, Peddocks Island
||Stereum cf. hirsutum
||Stemonitis sp. (slime mold)
|Orbilia cf. inflatula