Diversity on a stick, and other fungi
While I should be working on my PhD thesis, things have been crazy around our Boston Harbor Islands project. End of 2012, I started a fungal inventory of the islands. Well, not “the” islands but a number of focus islands (Grape Island, Peddocks Island, Thompson Island, and World’s End, which technically is a peninsula). I started off by myself, realizing soon enough that this was going a bit over my head. So working together with the National Park Service, we were able to work with interns (paid for by the University of Massachusetts-Boston). Now, March 2017, we have a super-excited intern – I was just reading on his blog that he “is marrying himself into mycology” (not sure what his girlfriend thinks of that!) – and we just topped 150 species on the (focus) islands.
This week alone, we have found three collections that likely represent new species for science! Another collection (Resupinatus poriaeformis) is a first record in North America . And for another species (Dendrothele nivosa) we found out that we generated the very first ITS sequence.
Since a few weeks, our intern and his associates have also started to explore some of the other, unexplored islands, such as Slate Island and Great Brewster Island. From their experience, we should get out on those islands more often. There is more wood debris, which gives rise to more fungal diversity. Of the ten collections made on Slate, eight were species new to the park. That doesn’t say much, of course, but hey. They returned with a stick on which they found three or so collections of different discomycetes (those fungi that look like cups). After examination in the lab, we had identified even six different species. Diversity on a stick. I keep telling them: the perfect title for a paper! One of the identified species, Helicogonium conniventis, is a mycoparasite. It produces asci (basically, a sac in which sexual spores develop) within another fungus, sometimes replacing the asci and sterile elements of that fungus. Brr, creepy.
I could go on and on telling about all kinds of collections, but the coolest thing about fungi is their morphology. How they look. So many shapes and colors (and consistencies)! So here are a few nice shots of some collections from the Boston Harbor Islands National Park area. Pictures by Alden C. Dirks, Lara A. Kappler, and myself.
One thought on “Diversity on a stick, and other fungi”
Wow this is great!! Would be great to see if populations differ between islands. We know much about this in plants (e.g. from the Azores) but less about fungi! Wind dispersal might differ dramatically between species so signal is to be expected for some, I would especially expect for ECM fungi!