Fungi are one of the most diverse groups of organisms on Earth, and play a major role in almost all terrestrial ecosystems. There are thought to be about 5.1 million extant species of Fungi on Earth, though only about 100 000 species have been described to date, with most of these being either visible Macrofungi (Mushrooms etc.) or pathogens of Humans, crops or domestic animals. This means that many major groups of Fungi have hardly been studies at all, particularly early diverging terrestrial Fungi (Fungal groups that diversified away from other Fungi soon after the group colonised the land, around a billion years ago).
In a paper published in the journal Mycologia on 6 September 2017, Terry Torres-Cruz, Terri Billingsley Tobias, and Maryam Almatruk of the Department of Biological Sciences at Western Illinois University, Cedar Hesse and Cheryl Kuske, of the Bioscience Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Alessandro Desirò, Gian Maria Niccolò Benucci, and Gregory Bonito of the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University, Jason Stajich of the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at the University of California, Riverside, Christopher Dunlap of the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Elizabeth Arnold of the School of Plant Sciences and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, and Andrea Porras-Alfaro, also of the Department of Biological Sciences at Western Illinois University, describe a new species of soil Fungus from a Pine plantation in North Carolina.
The new species is named Bifiguratus adelaidae, where 'Bifiguratus' means 'having two morphologies' and 'adelaidae' honours the Costa Rican ecologist Adelaida Chaverri Polini (1947-2003). The species was isolated from a Pine plantation in Duke Forest, North Carolina, but has also been detected in soil samples from the Bartlett Experimental Forest in New Hampshire, the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in Minnesota, and Coronado National Forest in Arizona, as well as samples from Italy, Japan, Sweden and South Korea. The Fungus initially forms white or light ivory colonies with a wrinkled surface and lobbed margin, however as it grows it becomes flattened and covered in mucus, and forms associations with the Bacteria Bacillus licheniformis and Stenotrophomonas sp. A genetic analysis of the species places it within the Mucoromycotina, an enigmatic group of Fungi of uncertain affinities, that also includes a variety of other soil Fungi and Pin Molds.
Bifiguratus adelaidae colony morphology on different media and temperatures. Scale bars are 10 mm. Torres-Cruz et al. (2017).
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