Friday, 9 May 2014

A new species of Earthstar Fungus from the Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary of northeast Thailand.

Earthstars (Geastrales) are distinctive Macro-fungi (fungi that produce large fruiting bodies) found in woodland around the world. The spore sacs of Earthstars have a double outer layer, the outer of which opens up like a ring of petals forming a star shape in moist weather, but contracts to form an outer covering in the dry. In some species this enclosed, dry weather spore sac can become detached and blow away like a Tumbleweed. Most Earthstars are ectomycorrhizal fungi, forming symbiotic relationships with plants in which they exchange soil nutrients gathered by the fungal hyphae for sugars produced by the plant, but others are detritus feeders, some of which are considered a nuisance for their tendency to colonize wood mulches then spit black globs of spores over their immediate area.

In a paper published in the journal PLoS One on 7 May 2014, Cherdchai Phosri of the Department of Biology at Nakhon Phanom University, Roy Watling of Caledonian Mycological Enterprises, Nuttika Suwannasai of the Department of Biology at Srinakharinwirot University, Andrew Wilson of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Purdue University and María Martıín of the Departamento de Micología at the Real Jardín Botánico, describe a new species of Eartstar from the Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary of northeast Thailand.

The new species is placed in the genus Astraeus and given the specific name sirindhorniae, in honour of Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand. Astraeus sirindhorniae forms large ellipsoid spore sacs 24.5–55.0 mm in diameter, that has a dry felty covering, becoming woollier towards the base. When this opens up the petals form a star 40-100 mm across. The odour is strong and penetrating, but pleasant.

A colony of Astraeus sirindhorniae. Phosri et al. (2014).

The fungi was found in dry deciduous forest living in association with Diptocarp trees. The spore sacs emerges in the rainy season.

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