The Funga from Honduras: compiling data from the literature, databases, and recent collections from a fungal inventory in Cusuco National Park
The Kingdom Fungi includes a highly diverse group of organisms, in terms of both species richness as well as the ecological roles they deliver. Since the start of modern fungal taxonomy with Micheli’s (1729) Nova Plantarum Genera, 148,000 species have been formally described. This number may seem startling but is only a fraction of the estimated number of species, which ranges from a conservative 1.5 to 6.0 million species, or more. The gap between numbers of described and estimated species is huge for fungi. So where are the missing fungi? There are cryptic taxa, those that are morphologically indistinguishable. Second, an estimated 75% of the planet’s diversity is already in collections—fungal collections, fungaria, may contain new species hidden under current names or not currently identified to species level. And third, many areas that are often hotspots for fungal diversity, remain underexplored—including tropical and subtropical areas.
There is no such thing as an inventory of tropical fungi. Only a few historic initiatives were undertaken documenting neotropical fungal diversity. Some of the most extensive fungal documentation in Central America in the last decade has occurred in Panama, by Dr. Meike Piepenbring and collaborators. In 2020, an updated (online) checklist of Panamanian fungi was published, presenting 3,103 species. For other countries in the area, the information about fungal records is scattered.
In 2019, we conducted an opportunistic fungal survey in Cusuco National Park, a 23,440-ha protected area in the Merendón range in northwestern Honduras. We found 116 collections, of which 91 have been identified to order-level, 65 to genus, and 25 to species. A total of 37 genera were identified; best represented were Marasmius (10 collections), Xylaria (7), and Amanita (4). Based on sequence data, ten collections may represent undescribed species. However, without a reference dataset of fungal species diversity in the country, it is impossible to know which taxa are known to occur in Honduras at this time. The student that will take on this project will construct a list of species that have thus far been reported in Honduras. Data will be pooled from different sources, influcing records available in scientific publications. Retrieved fungal names will often have to be updated according to current nomenclature. Second, databases (e.g., GBIF, MyCoPortal) will be searched for contributing additional records. Third and finally, the student will study the fungal collections from fieldwork in 2019, and identify specimens based on a combination of morphological and molecular data. All records will be combined into a tool that can be used as a reference guide for future studies of mycology in Honduras. The master student will become familiar with data mining, curation and management of biodiversity records, and integrative taxonomy approaches in mycology. The results of this project will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, in collaboration with our international partners.
Haelewaters D, Schoutteten N, Medina-van Berkum P, Martin TE, Verbeken A, Aime MC. 2021. Pioneering a fungal inventory at Cusuco National Park, Honduras. Journal of Mesoamerican Biology 1(1): 111-131. [pdf]
Lindau G, Sydow P. 1915. Thesaurus litteraturae mycologicae et lichenologicae. Volumen quartum. Borntraeger, Berlin.
Piepenbring M, Maciá-Vicente JG, Codjia JEI, Glatthorn C, Kirk P, Meswaet Y, Minter D, Olou BA, Reschke K, Schmidt M, Yorou NS. 2020. Mapping mycological ignorance–checklists and diversity patterns of fungi known for West Africa. IMA Fungus 11: 13. https://doi.org/10.1186/s43008-020-00034-y