Information

What is the scientific name of such a fungus?


Several days ago, in a bush I found the fungus as attached which is about 25cm in height and does not look like an edible mushroom:

Any one has an idea of its scientific name and other details?


This looks pretty much like a Coprinus comatus (also known as: shaggy ink cap, lawyer's wig, or shaggy mane) to me. You can see the characteristic ring around the stipe of the fungus (see image below from Wikipedia). The fungus is edible and is also cultivated in China for this purpose. See here for more details.


Classifications of Fungi

The kingdom Fungi contains five major phyla that were established according to their mode of sexual reproduction or using molecular data. Polyphyletic, unrelated fungi that reproduce without a sexual cycle, are placed for convenience in a sixth group called a “form phylum”. Not all mycologists agree with this scheme. Rapid advances in molecular biology and the sequencing of 18S rRNA (a part of RNA) continue to show new and different relationships between the various categories of fungi.

The five true phyla of fungi are the Chytridiomycota (Chytrids), the Zygomycota (conjugated fungi), the Ascomycota (sac fungi), the Basidiomycota (club fungi) and the recently described Phylum Glomeromycota. An older classification scheme grouped fungi that strictly use asexual reproduction into Deuteromycota, a group that is no longer in use.

Note: “-mycota” is used to designate a phylum while “-mycetes” formally denotes a class or is used informally to refer to all members of the phylum.


Origins and meanings of fungi genus names

The information below is a summarized version of one of the appendices in Pat O'Reilly's latest book, 'Fascinated by Fungi'. For full details and sample pages see our Bookshop, where you can order an author-signed copy online.

A genus name is given to a group of fungi with similar physical characteristics that are confined essentially to that group. The name, usually derived from either medieval or - Classical Latin or as a latinized version of a Greek word, may be chosen in honour of a person, as a reference to a place or a kind of habitat, or to denote a prominent characteristic of the group of fungi. (There are also a few scientific names that have no real meaning &ndash perhaps as a result of an initial misidentification.) Here are some commonly encountered genus names and their origins/meanings:


Elaphomyces, the generic name, comes from Elaph-, meaning deer, and -myces meaning fungus (as in mycelium and mycology, for example). Fungi in this genus, and in America Elaphomyces granulatus in particular, are sometimes referred to as 'Deer Truffles' (not to be confused with dear truffles, which is all to do with the price!). The common name Hart's Truffle has also been applied to this species.

Needless to say the specific epithet granulatus relates in some way to a granular characteristic of the False Truffle, and specifically it is a reference to the small granular warts on its outer rind.


Classification of Fungi (With Diagram)

1. The mycelium is coenocyte (multinucleate and aseptate).

2. Hyphal wall contains cellulose and other glucans in many members. In some cases chitin or fungus cellulose is also present.

3. Asexual reproduction involves the formation of spore containing sacs or sporangia. In aquatic conditions the sporangia produce zoospores. In terrestrial conditions the sporangia often behave as spores, equivalent to conidia. Because of it, the sporangia are often called conidiosporangia.

4. Zoospores are generally biflagellate with heterokont flagellation in which one flagellum is smooth while the other is of tinsel type (having fine surface outgrowths Called mastigonemes).

5. Gametes are usually non-flagellate.

6. Sexual reproduction is by gametangial contact in which the male sex organs or antheridium passes its product into the female sex organ or oogonium through a fertiliza­tion tube.

7. The product of sexual reproduction is oospore.

Phytophthora infestans causes late blight of Potato and occasionally of Tomato as well. Blight is the appearance of brownish to black dead areas.

They are first formed on the mar­gins and tips of leaflets. Later on the whole foliage becomes blighted. Tuber yield is reduced. The surface of the tubers also shows blighting. Irish famine of 1845- 1847 was caused by late blight of Potato.

It occurs in cruci­fers and is characterised by the appearance irregular white blisters containing, conidiosporangia on the leaves and stems. White rust is caused by Albugo Candida (= Cystopus Candidas: Fig. (2.46).

Pythium debaryanum kills seedlings of a num­ber of plants through collapse of stem just above the ground level.

The patho­gen produces a cottony or wooly bloom on the surface of the host. Sclerospora graminicola spreads downy mildew in cereals and green ear disease of Pennisetum typhoides (vem. Bajra). Peronospora parasitica causes downy mildew in a number of plants, e.g., Pea, Mustard, Spin­ach, Onion, etc..

Zygomycetes – The Conjugation Fungi:

1. It is a class of terrestrial fungi which are mostly saprotrophic, rarely parasitic.

2. The mycelium is coenocytic (multinucleate, aseptate).

3. Hyphal wall contains chitin or fungus cellulose.

4. Motile cells (zoospores and planogametes) are absent.

5. Mito-spores are non-motile. They are called sporangiospores as the spores are formed inside sporangia borne at the tips of special hyphae called sporangiophores.

6. Sexual reproduction occurs through gametangial copulation or conjugation. Be­cause of it, zygomycetes are also called conjugation fungi.

7. The gametes are multinucleate and are called coenogametes.

8. Sexual reproduction produces a resting diploid spore called zygospore. Because of the presence of zygospore, the group of fungi is called zygomycetes. Zygospore differs from oospore in that during its formation a distinct large food laden non-motile female gamete is not produced.

9. Zygospore does not give rise to new mycelium directly. Instead it produces a new sporangium called germ sporangium (previously called zygospo-rangium). Germ sporangium forms meiospores called germ spores.

Pilobolus crystallinus is a coprophilous or dung mould in which mature sporangia are thrown away up to a distance of 2m.

Rhizopus stolonifer (= R. nigricans) is popularly known as black bread mould. Mucor caninus or M. mucedo is coprophilous. It is also called dung mould. Rhizopus and Mucor are the common saprotrophic fungi that attack a variety of food stuffs.

Soft rot or leak disease of Strawberry, Apple, Sweet Potato, etc. is due to Rhizopus. Mucor pusillus causes infection of internal organs in human beings. Absidia corymbifera causes bronchomycosis. Both Rhizopus and Mucor species (e.g., Rhizopus oryzae, Mucor javanicus) are used in alcoholic fermentation. The two also produce a number of organic acids like citric acid, lactic acid and fumaric acid.

Ascomycetes – The Sac Fungi:

Some of the important points of Ascomycetes are listed below:

1. Ascomycetes (Gk. askos- sac, mykes- fungus) is a class of diverse fungi numbering over 30,000 species. They include pigmented moulds (brown, green, blue, pink), powdery mildews, yeasts, cup fungi, morels and truffles. Nutritionally they are saprotrophic, decomposers, coprophilous or parasitic.

2. The mycelium consists of septate hyphae. Yeasts are an exception in that they are basically unicellular. They may, however, form short temporary filamentous structure called pseudo-mycelium.

3. The septa possess central pores called septal pores. The pores allow communication between adjacent cells. Septal pores show plugging of different types.

4. Cell wall contains chitin or fungus cellulose.

5. Motile structures do not occur in the life cycle.

6. In yeasts, asexual reproduction occurs through budding and fission. Oidia stage, similar to yeast, is found. In some other ascomycetes as well.

7. In majority of ascomycetes, the common mode of asexual reproduction is through the formation of conidia (singular-conidium). Conidia are non-motile fungal mitospores which are produced exogenously from the tips and sides of hyphae called conidiophores.

Conidia are often coloured brown, green, blue or pink. They provide colouration to the fungus. Greenish and bluish growth on bread, citrus fruits and old leather is due to moulds belonging to ascomycetes e.g., Penicillium, Aspergillus.

8. Conidiophores may be branched or un-branched, scattered or aggregated to form structures like acervulus, synnema, sporodochium, etc.

9. Sexual reproduction takes place through fusion of sex cells, somatic cells, gametangial contact between an antheridium and ascogonium, and autogamy.

10. Fertilization occurs in two steps, plasmogamy and karyogamy. Karyogamy is delayed after plasmogamy. A new transitional phase appears in the life cycle. It is called dikaryophase. The cells of dikaryophase are called dikaryotic cells. Each such cell possesses two nuclei (n+n).

11. Some dikaryotic cells function as ascus mother cells. The latter act as the seats of both karyogamy and meiosis. This converts the cells into asci (singular- ascus).

12. Ascus is a sporangial sac peculiar to ascomycetes. 4-8 haploid meiospores named ascospores are produced internally in each ascus. In most of the cases half the number of ascospores belong to one mating type while the other half belong to the second mating type.

13. The asci may occur freely or get aggregated with dikaryotic mycelium to form fructifications called ascocarps. Ascocarps are of many types: cup-like (apothecium, e.g., Peziza), flask-shaped (perithecium e.g., Neurospora), elongated with a slit (hysterothecium) or closed (cleistothecium e.g., Penicillium). The fructifications of some ascomycetes are edible and considered delicacies, e.g., morels, truffles.

Yeasts are a group of non-mycelial or pseudomycelial ascomycetes which multiply asexually by budding or fission and where asci are not organised into ascocarps.

Depending upon the mode of asexual reproduction, yeasts are of three types— budding yeasts e.g. Saccharomyces), fission yeasts (e.g., Schizosaccharomyces) and halobial yeasts (both budding and fission, e.g., Saccharomycoides). Yeasts in which ascus formation is known are named as true yeasts.

Related forms which resemble yeasts in most character­istics but where ascus formation is not reported are called false yeasts, e.g., Candida, Mycoderma, and Cryptococcus. They are otherwise included amongst deuteromycetes.

Under anaerobic conditions sugary so­lutions inoculated with yeasts are converted into alcoholic beverages, e.g., beer, wine, cider, toddy. They are concentrated further to produce rum and whisky. The two common yeasts used by brewing industry are Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Beer or Baker’s yeast) and S. ellipsoidens (Wine Yeast),

Kneaded flour is inoculated with Saccha­romyces cerevisiae (Baker’s Yeast). It produces carbon dioxide and alcohol. The two evapo­rate during baking, making the dough soft and spongy,

Yeast used in brewing industry is regularly harvested and used as vitaminised food,

Yeasts are used in curing cocoa beans,

Being saprotrophic, yeasts attack various food stuffs including tomato products, foods having lactic acid and carbonated beverages,

Some yeast reduces the yield of silk industry by attacking silkworms,

Species of Nematospora attack Cotton, Tomato and Beans,

Candida albicans causes thrush and inflammation of genitalia. Cryptococcus neoformans attacks nervous system producing lesions, meningitis and brain tumour. Torula produces skin nodules and lesions of viscera.

It is a common green smoky mould which not only contaminates labo­ratory cultures (hence weed of laboratory) but also various food stuffs including bread, butter, cheese, syrups, jams, jellies, textile and leather goods. It causes rotting of dates, figs, pomegranates, cigars and tobacco.

Some lung (pulmonary aspergillosis) and ear infec­tions are caused by Aspergillus species. Fermentation effected by Aspergillus yields alcohol (Sake of Japan), citric acid, gluconic acid, glycerol, В-complex vitamins, enzymes and antibiotics.

P. chrysogenum yields the antibiotic penicillin. The latter was the first commercial antibiotic. It was formerly obtained from P. notatum. P. griseofulvum produces antifungal drug griseofulvin.

The fungus is employed in ripening of cheese (camembert and roquefort varieties) and production of organic acids. The fungus is oth­erwise known to spoil food, citrus fruits, apple, grape, paper, wood and ensilage. The blue-green mould appearing on cit­rus fruits is Penicillium.

4. Neurospora (Pink Bread Mould):

N. crassa is often employed in studies conducted in experimental genetics. It is often called “Droso­phila of plant kingdom”.

The fungus produces powdery mildew (fungal disease in which pathogen results in a powdery coating on the surface of the host), e.g., Erysiphe graminicola (E. graminis, on cereals like Wheat, Barley), E. polygoni (on legumes like Pea).

Claviceps purpurea produces ergot of rye and other cereals in which ears come to have sclerotia of the fungus. Eating of infected cereals produces ergotism. Ergotism is of two types, gangrenous and spasmodic. The sclerotia contain a number of alkaloids, the most important being lysergic acid.

Ergot is used as a medicine to control migraine, enlarged prostate glands and uterine haemorrhage after child birth. These days lysergic acid is pre­pared through fermentation activity of C. paspali. LSD, a hallucinogen, is D-lysergic acid diethylamide-15.

S. fruticola causes brown rot of Peach, Plum and Pear.

The ascocarp is cup-shaped, e.g., Peziza.

Morels are ascomycetes with edible ascocarps that have fleshy sponge-like conical cap or pileus and a stalk like stipe, e.g., Morchella esculenta (vern. Gucchi), M. crassipes, M. deliciosia.

They are edible ascomycetes with tuber-like subterranean ascocarps that are often dug out with the help of trained dogs and pigs, e.g., Tuber uncinatum, T. aestivum.

Basidiomycetes – The Club Fungi:

1. Basidiomycetes (Gk. basidium- small base, mykes- fungus) are the most advanced and most commonly seen fungi as their fructifications are often large and conspicuous, e.g., mushrooms (gill fungi), toadstools, puff balls, bracket fungi, etc.

2. The class contains about 25,000 species.

3. Basidiomycetes are among the best decomposers of wood. Only a few insects can compete with basidiomycetes in decomposing hard woods and woody structures of trees. Basidiomycetes are able to decompose both cellulose and lignin. Lignin is not metabolised by most other fungi and even bacteria.

For decomposing wood, these fungi secrete cellulose and lignin digesting enzymes. The enzymes create spaces in the wood for hyphae to pass inwardly. It is because of this that we sometimes observe toadstools and mushrooms to come out of wooden structures. Ganoderma species causes decay of wood even of standing trees.

4. Motile structures or cells are absent.

5. Mycelia are of two types, primary and secondary. Primary mycelium contains monokaryotic cells, that is, cells with single haploid nuclei (n).

6. Monokaryotic phase or primary mycelium may multiply by oidia, conidia-like spores and pycniospores. Dikaryotic mycelium does not multiply by asexual spores.

7. There is often differentiation of two mating types, (+) and (-).

8. Sexual reproduction does not involve sex organs. Instead plasmogamy (fusion of protoplasts without fusion of their nuclei) occurs by fusion between basidiospores and other monokaryotic spores, between a spore or spermatium and a hypha or between two hyphal cells of primary mycelia.

9. Karyogamy is delayed for long. The intervening phase is called dikaryophase. It produces a new mycelium called secondary mycelium which is dikaryotic (n+n).

10. Secondary mycelium is long lived. It consists of profusely branched septate hyphae.

11. Septa possess dolipores or central pores with barrel-shaped outgrowths.

12. Hook-shaped outgrowths are found on the sides of septa. They are called clamp connections. Clamp connections are meant for proper distribution of dikaryons at the time of cell division.

13. Secondary mycelium can perennate in the soil or wood by means of sclerotia (often rounded or ellipsoid firm masses of hyphae) or rhizomorphs (root-like aggregation of hyphae with well defined apical meristems).

14. Dikaryophase or secondary mycelium may multiply by different types of spores— chlamydospores, aecidiospores, uredospores, teleutospores, etc.

15. Karyogamy and meiosis occur in club-shaped structures known as basidia (singu­lar— basidium). The name of the class is based after them. A basidium may be aseptate (holobasidium) or septate vertically or transversely (phragmobasidium).

16. A basidium commonly produces four meiospores or basidiospores exogenously at the tips of fine outgrowths called sterigmata.

17. The fungi may or may not produce fructifications called basidiocarps. The basidiocarps vary from microscopic forms to large macroscopic structures. Some puff balls and brackets can be over 50 cm in diameter.

They are characterised by the formation of rusty pustules containing the spores. A basidiocarp is absent, (i) Puccinia graminis tritici — black rust of wheat, (ii) Puccinia glumarum — yellow rust of wheat, (iii) Hemileia vastatrix — leaf rust of coffee.

They produce thick-walled black-coloured resting spores called smut spores (= teleutospores = chlamydospores). Smuts are of two types, covered and loose. In covered smuts the spore mass remains within the host till the latter is set free, e.g. Ustilago maydis (smut of corn), Tilletia tritici (bunt or stinking smut of wheat). In loose smut the spores are exposed while attached to the host, e.g. Ustilago tritici (loose smut of wheat).

They are edible and nonedible agaric ales which possess umbrella like basidiocarp the edible mushrooms generally possess coloured basidiospores. Common examples are Agaricus campestris, Agaricus brunnescens (= A. bisporus), Volvariella volvacea (Paddy Straw Mushroom), Lentinus edodes (Shiitake Mushroom).

Toadstools are nonedible, often poisonous mushrooms which generally have white spores. Amanita caesarea (Caesaer’s Mushroom) was used in poisoning Roman emperor Caesar. The other toadstools are Amanita phalloides (Death Cap) and A. muscaria (Fly Agaric).

5. Bracket Fungi (Shelf Fungi):

The basidiocarps or fructifica­tions appear on tree trunks, logs, lumber, etc. just as brackets or shelves, e.g. Fomes applanatus (peren­nial), Polyporus sulphureus (annual).

The basidiocarp is a stalked rounded structure which on ripening sends out puffs of spores. The fructification may grow above or below the substratum. Puffballs are odoriferous. They are edible in the young state, e.g. Lycoperdon oblongisporum, L. giganteum.

7. Armillariella (= Armillana):

A. mellea (Honey Mushroom) is an edible mushroom which is a serious root parasite of both hardwoods and conifers. The fungus sends rhizomorphs into the phloem of the host and hence block the food supply.

Psilocybe mexicana (Sacred Mushroom) has hallucinating properties similar to LSD. It is used by Mexican Indians for certain religious ceremonies.

Deuteromycetes – The Fungi Imperfecti:

Some of the important points of Deuteromycetes are listed below:

1. Deuteromycetes is an artificial class of fungi which has been created to include all those fungi in which sexual stage is either absent or not known.

2. Some of the deuteromycetes are unicellular like yeasts. They are often studied along with the latter.

3. The mycelium is usually septate. Coenocytic forms are not known. Clamp connec­tions, typical of basidiomycetes, are absent.

4. Asexual reproduction often occurs by conidia along with some other types of spores. In some cases even asexual spores are absent.

5. It is believed that most members of deuteromycetes are actually ascomycetes in which sexual reproduction is either absent or yet to be discovered.

Colletotrichum falcatum produces red rot of sugarcane which is conspicuous on leaf midribs as well as in canes. It reduces juice content of canes and brings about withering of leaves. The fungus develops sickle-shaped conidia. The perfect stage is Glomerella tucumanensis.

2. Helminthosporium (Fig. 2.52):

Helminthosporium oryzae causes leaf spot disease of rice commonly called sesame or brown leaf spot of rice. It caused Bengal fam­ine of 1942-43 and similar conditions in Krishna-Godavari area in 1989-1990. The perfect stage of the fungus is Cochliobolus miyabeanus. The conidia are 5-10 septate.

Alternaria sotani causes early blight of Potato and Tomato. The leaves develop small oval brown spots with concentric rings. The leaves as well as the branches wither and fall down. The conidia are beaked bottle-like multi-septate with a number of transverse and a few longitudinal septa.

Circu­lar necrotic dark brown or blackish leaf spots develop in groundnut due to Cercospora (e.g. C. personata). The conidia are septate and filamentous. The perfect stage is Mycosphaerella (e.g., M. berkeleyii).

Many economically important plants (e.g., Potato, Tomato, Cotton, Banana, Flax, Pigeon Pea) show sudden signs of wilting due to blockage of tracheary elements by growth of fungus Fusarium especially F. oxysporum. The fungus shows three types of spores — chlamydospores, micro conidia and macro conidia.

They were first discovered in the ex­tracts of Fusarium moniliformae growing on rice (bakane or foolish disease of rice). The perfect stage of fungus is Gibberella fujikuroi. Gibberellins are natural plant growth hormones.

7. Trichoderma (Fig. 2.53).

It is a soil fungus used in biological control of other fungi as it produces allelochemics against them. If the fungus happens to pass into human alimentary canal it produces leucopenia called alimentary canal aleukia.


Basidiomycota: The Club Fungi

The fungi in the Phylum Basidiomycota are easily recognizable under a light microscope by their club-shaped fruiting bodies called basidia (singular, basidium), which are the swollen terminal cell of a hypha. The basidia, which are the reproductive organs of these fungi, are often contained within the familiar mushroom, commonly seen in fields after rain, on the supermarket shelves, and growing on your lawn ( Figure 6 ). These mushroom-producing basidiomyces are sometimes referred to as “gill fungi” because of the presence of gill-like structures on the underside of the cap. The “gills” are actually compacted hyphae on which the basidia are borne. This group also includes shelf fungus, which cling to the bark of trees like small shelves. In addition, the basidiomycota includes smuts and rusts, which are important plant pathogens toadstools, and shelf fungi stacked on tree trunks. Most edible fungi belong to the Phylum Basidiomycota however, some basidiomycetes produce deadly toxins. For example, Cryptococcus neoformans causes severe respiratory illness.

Figure 6. The fruiting bodies of a basidiomycete form a ring in a meadow, commonly called “fairy ring.” The best-known fairy ring fungus has the scientific name Marasmius oreades. The body of this fungus, its mycelium, is underground and grows outward in a circle. As it grows, the mycelium depletes the soil of nitrogen, causing the mycelia to grow away from the center and leading to the “fairy ring” of fruiting bodies where there is adequate soil nitrogen. (Credit: “Cropcircles”/Wikipedia Commons)]

The lifecycle of basidiomycetes includes alternation of generations ( Figure 7 ). Spores are generally produced through sexual reproduction, rather than asexual reproduction. The club-shaped basidium carries spores called basidiospores. In the basidium, nuclei of two different mating strains fuse (karyogamy), giving rise to a diploid zygote that then undergoes meiosis. The haploid nuclei migrate into basidiospores, which germinate and generate monokaryotic hyphae. The mycelium that results is called a primary mycelium. Mycelia of different mating strains can combine and produce a secondary mycelium that contains haploid nuclei of two different mating strains. This is the dikaryotic stage of the basidiomyces lifecyle and and it is the dominant stage. Eventually, the secondary mycelium generates a basidiocarp, which is a fruiting body that protrudes from the ground—this is what we think of as a mushroom. The basidiocarp bears the developing basidia on the gills under its cap.

Art Connection

Figure 7. The lifecycle of a basidiomycete alternates generation with a prolonged stage in which two nuclei (dikaryon) are present in the hyphae.

Which of the following statements is true?

  1. A basidium is the fruiting body of a mushroom-producing fungus, and it forms four basidiocarps.
  2. The result of the plasmogamy step is four basidiospores.
  3. Karyogamy results directly in the formation of mycelia.
  4. A basidiocarp is the fruiting body of a mushroom-producing fungus.

How Many Species of Fungi are There? (with pictures)

There are about 75,000 scientifically identified species of fungi, with scientists believing there may be as many as a million fungal species yet unidentified. As differing species may look the same superficially, classifying them accurately is difficult, and usually requires the application of molecular tools such as DNA sequencing. As DNA sequencing is still relatively expensive, even for fungi with genomes far shorter than mammals, it will likely be many decades before the majority are classified with certainty.

Common types include molds — which grow in strands called hyphae, mushrooms — fruiting bodies of fungal colonies, and yeasts — the name for any single-celled fungi. However, these are broad terms, and molds, yeasts, and mushrooms can be found across several taxonomic categories. Fungal classification at the phyla level is complicated, and is constantly being reshuffled. Fungi were first misclassified as plants, but subsequent investigations found they actually have more in common with animals. Like plants and animals, they are eukaryotes.

Phylogenetically, there are seven phyla of fungi. The first is the Chytridiomycota, or chytrids, the most primitive form, with about 1,000 identified species. These produce spores with flagella (zoospores), and go after amphibians, maize, alfalfa, potatoes, and other vulnerable organisms. These are most representative of the types that lived throughout the Paleozoic era, being primarily aquatic.

Blastocladiomycota is the second phlya, only created as a distinct category in 2007. Like the chytrids, they use zoospores to reproduce, and parasitic of all major eukaryotic groups. The third phyla, Neocallimastigomycota, are anaerobic fungi that primarily occupy the stomachs of ruminants. Their name contains the Greek suffix referring to whips, -mastix, for their numerous flagella. The second and third phyla were both initially misclassified as chytrids.

The fourth phyla are the more familiar Zygomycota, named for the hardy spherical spores they produce. If you see a fungus with tiny dots at the tips of the hyphae (filaments), that’s Zygomycota. There are over 600 species of this genus, and it includes black bread mold, one of the most frequently sighted by humans. Another is Pilobolus, which is capable of ejecting spores several meters through the air.

The fifth phyla are the Glomeromycota, known as Arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) fungi. Basically, that term means “tree fungi.” They can be found in large numbers in the roots of more than 80% of families of vascular plants. This relationship is symbiotic and ancient, extending back at least 460 million years, to the beginning of plant life on land.

The sixth phyla are the Ascomycota, known as sac fungi. These make distinct spherical sacs to hold their spores, and contain the most species out of all the phyla. Examples include Penicillium, morels, truffles, Baker’s yeast, lichens, powdery mildews, and many others. Many of this phyla are plant-pathogenic.

The seventh phyla are the Basidiomycota, or the club fungi. This group contains most common mushrooms. It is distinguished by the presence of a spore-producing structure called the basidium, more commonly known as a cap. Along with Ascomycota, they are known as Higher Fungi.

Michael is a longtime InfoBloom contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Michael is a longtime InfoBloom contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.


Fungus Commits Floral Fraud to Fool Insects into Spreading It

The spores of some fungi can linger in the environment for months or years just waiting for something to spread them elsewhere, like a gust of wind, falling rain or a passing insect or animal. Not so with Fusarium xyrophilum, a fungus found growing on two types of yellow-eyed grass in the savannas of Guyana, South America, and reported in the December 2019 issue of Mycologia.

Rather than passively waiting for its spores to be carried off, F. xyrophilum transforms itself into colorful, petal-like structures that mimic the yellow flowers of its host plant, likely tricking pollinators such as bees to land on them. The fungus's fake flowers even emit a chemical aroma to further entice the hungry insects. But according to Imane Laraba, lead author of a published study conducted by a team of Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Purdue University and Smithsonian Institution scientists, instead of a pollen meal, visiting insects get a face full of spores before flying off.

There's a name for such floral fraud—"pseudo-flower formation"—and it's among the rarest outcomes of fungus-plant encounters known to science, the team reported in the journal of Fungal Genetics and Biology.

Think fungi are little more than moldy growths? Guess again. Scientists found one that creates fake flowers to attract insect pollinators. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Wurdack, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

The yellow-orange coloring of the fungus's pseudo flowers contains two pigments that reflect ultraviolet light at ranges visible to bees, butterflies and other pollinator insects, thanks to specialized receptors in their eyes. Using gene-sequencing methods, the researchers also determined that the fungus infects the entire plant—from the roots up—and sterilizes it so that it cannot form its true flowers, which would draw the insects' attention away from the fungus' spore-laden pseudo-flowers.

The researchers theorize this self-sterile fungus evolved such tactics to increase the odds of its spores reproducing sexually with others in the environment, via a process called "outcrossing," as well as infecting new host plants. More broadly, the work adds new insights to the diverse genera of Fusarium fungi, which include species that can contaminate corn, wheat and other grain crops with harmful compounds called mycotoxins, noted Laraba, a postdoctoral microbiologist with the ARS Mycotoxin Prevention and Applied Microbiology Research in Peoria, Illinois.

Investigating the fungus's floral fraud was a team effort by all counts. It began with the fieldwork of a sharp-eyed botanist followed by careful experimental design and the use of sophisticated analytical and imaging methods, including scanning electron microscopy.

Laraba collaborated on the effort via the ARS Research Participation Program and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).


Talaromycosis (formerly Penicilliosis)

Talaromycosis is an infection caused by the fungus Talaromyces marneffei. The name of the fungus and the name of the infection have changed. T. marneffei used to be called Penicillium marneffei, and talaromycosis used to be called penicilliosis. 1 Talaromycosis only affects people who live in or visit Southeast Asia, southern China, or eastern India. 2 Most people who get talaromycosis have a medical condition that weakens their immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, or another condition that lowers the body&rsquos ability to fight germs and sickness. 2

Symptoms

Bumps on the skin are a common symptom. 3-5 These bumps are usually small and painless. The bumps usually appear on the face and neck but can also appear in other places on the body. 2,3 Other symptoms include: 3,5,6

  • Fever
  • General discomfort
  • Weight loss
  • Cough
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the liver and spleen
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

Talaromycosis may affect people living with HIV differently than people who do not have HIV. In people with HIV, talaromycosis is more likely to spread through the blood and affect the whole body. 2-4 In people who do not have HIV, talaromycosis commonly affects the lungs, liver, and mouth, although sometimes it spreads through the blood and affects the whole body. 2-4 In people with HIV, skin bumps due to talaromycosis usually have a small dent in the center. 5,7 In people who do not have HIV, these bumps are more likely to appear smooth. 7 Talaromycosis is also more likely to cause fever and swelling of the spleen in people who have HIV. 7

The fungus can make people sick weeks to years after they come in contact with it. 6,8,9

Risk and Prevention

Who gets talaromycosis?

Talaromycosis only affects people who live in or visit Southeast Asia, southern China, or eastern India. 2 Healthy people rarely get talaromycosis. 2,4 Most people who get talaromycosis have a medical condition that weakens their immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, or another condition such as: 2,4,5

  • Cancer
  • Organ transplant
  • Adult-onset immunodeficiency syndrome
  • Other autoimmune diseases

Young farmers in certain parts of Southeast Asia, southern China, or eastern India appear to be more likely to get talaromycosis. 10

How can I prevent talaromycosis?

A healthcare provider might prescribe medicine to prevent talaromycosis for people who have a condition that weakens their immune system and who live in places where the fungus is present. 3 Itraconazole is the most commonly used medicine to prevent talaromycosis, but healthcare providers also can prescribe other antifungal medicines. 3

Where Talaromycosis Comes From

Scientists believe that people get talaromycosis after breathing in T. marneffei from the environment. 2,3 However, the exact environmental source is unknown. T. marneffei has been found in bamboo rats and their burrows, but people who touch or eat these rats are not more likely to get sick from T. marneffei. 2,6,10 Talaromycosis does not spread from person to person. 2 In Thailand, talaromycosis is more common during rainy seasons, and some scientists believe that rain helps the fungus grow in the environment. 10 In rare cases, other species of Talaromyces other than T. marneffei can also cause talaromycosis. 1

Diagnosis & Testing

Talaromycosis can be diagnosed by using a small sample from the body part that is affected, for example: bone marrow, skin, blood, lung, or lymph node. 11 The sample is sent to a laboratory for a fungal culture or to be examined under the microscope. 11

Treatment

Talaromycosis must be treated with prescription antifungal medicine. The most common treatment is amphotericin B, given through a vein for two weeks, followed by itraconazole, given by mouth for 10 weeks. 3 Other antifungal medicines that can be used include itraconazole by itself or voriconazole. 3

Statistics

The total number of cases of talaromycosis worldwide is not known. The number of T. marneffei infections in people who have HIV/AIDS has been decreasing due to antiretroviral therapy (ART). 2 However, the number of cases in people without HIV/AIDS has increased in parts of Asia since the mid-1990s, probably because of improved diagnosis and a growing number of people with other conditions that weaken their immune systems. 4 Scientists estimate that more than 3 in 4 people with talaromycosis will die without treatment with an antifungal medicine. 2,5,12 When treated with antifungals, fewer than 1 in 4 people with talaromycosis die. 7


What is the scientific name of such a fungus? - Biology

The bright color patterns of pleasing fungus beetles never fail to attract attention, but because of their cryptic habits they are rarely seen except by the dedicated mushroom hunter and entomologists.

Taxonomy (Back to Top)

The family Erotylidae has been thoroughly revised by Boyle (1956) for America north of Mexico. Since then nothing has been published to change the taxonomic standing of the species in the United States. Much taxonomic work, however, remains to be done before the tropical fauna is as well known.

Distribution (Back to Top)

Pleasing fungus beetles are worldwide in distribution, but the vast majority of the species occur in the tropics. Of the approximately 1,800 known species, only 51 are found in America north of Mexico 18 species have been recorded from or are known to occur in Florida (Skelley 1988).

Description (Back to Top)

Most pleasing fungus beetles are easily recognized by their reddish-orange and black color pattern, although there are a few exceptions. Members of the genus Pseudischyrus and some of Tritoma are entirely brown or black. Most species in the southeastern United States are black with a red head and prothorax, but a few are more elaborately patterned. Because many other beetles share this black and red color pattern, additional characters are needed for identification.

Figure 1. 1) Tritoma atriventis LeConte - 2.0 mm 2) Megalodacne heros (Say) - 8.0 mm 3) Ischyrus q. quadripunctatus (Olivier) - 4.0 mm.

Figure 2. Adult pleasing fungus beetle, Megalodacne spp. Photograph by Paul. M. Choate, University of Florida.

Important structural characters include their clubbed antenna, 5-5-5 tarsal formula, usually dilated maxillary palps, and lack of pubescence. Pleasing fungus beetles range in size from 2.0 to 3.5 mm long in Dacne to 14.0 to 22.0 mm long in Megalodacne. Most Florida species are less than 10 mm in length. Body shape usually is elongate-oval or egg-shaped. Useful references for identifying these beetles are Boyle (1956) and Dillon and Dillon (1961).

Biology (Back to Top)

Pleasing fungus beetles feed on the fruiting bodies of fungi. A wide variety of fungi serves as hosts for the family as a whole, but each pleasing fungus beetle species seems to be specific to a certain group of fungi. The species with larger individuals, such as Megalodacne spp., feed in the harder bracket fungi (Ganoderma spp.) found on dead trees and stumps. Common Triplax spp. feed on oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.) which grow on dead logs. Tritoma spp. feed on mushrooms growing from dead roots and logs, while members of Pseudischyrus and other Tritoma spp. feed on fungi that have mycorrhyzal associations with living tree roots. These mushrooms include brittlegill mushrooms (Russula spp.) and deathcap mushrooms (Amanita spp.). McKnight and McKnight (1987) is useful in mushroom recognition.

As with most insects that depend on ephemeral food sources, the larval stage generally passes quickly: two weeks from egg to pupa is not uncommon. The sluggish larvae are only found associated with the mature host fruiting body. Adults are often found on the host fungus in large numbers with the larvae. However, adults are also found away from the host. When conditions are unfavorable for the host fungi to fruit, adults often congregate under bark or in other hiding places. The causal factors and mechanisms which lead to these aggregations are unknown.

Economic Importance (Back to Top)

In the United States, the pleasing fungus beetles are not economically important, but in the Orient where many people regularly collect and eat wild mushrooms, pleasing fungus beetles may be considered pests (Boyle 1956). Many of the fungi upon which these beetles feed are edible by humans. Currently none of these fungi is easily cultivated and they are not sought after by most people. With the increasing popularity of mushrooms and cultural technological advances, it is possible that pleasing fungus beetles may become economically important in the United States. If these beetles become pests, chemical control is not recommended because mushrooms are very absorbent. Biological or cultural controls should be considered.

These beetles may also be beneficial. Fungi like Inonotus spp. and Armillariella spp. are known to be pathogenic to hardwood trees. These fungi also serve as hosts for several species of pleasing fungus beetles.

Selected References (Back to Top)

  • Boyle WW. 1956. A revision of the Erotylidae of America north of Mexico (Coleoptera). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 110: 61-172.
  • Dillon ES, Dillon LS. 1961. A Manual of Common Beetles of Eastern North America. Row, Peterson and Company, Evanston, IL. 884 p.
  • McKnight KH, McKnight VB. 1987. Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 429 p.
  • Skelley P. 1988. The pleasing fungus beetles of Florida (Coleoptera: Erotylidae). M.S. thesis. University of Florida, Central Science Library. Gainesville, FL. 172 pp.

Author: Paul E. Skelley, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry.
Originally published as DPI Entomology Circular 313.
Photographs: Paul M. Choate, University of Florida
Graphics: Division of Plant Industry
Web Design: Don Wasik, Jane Medley
Publication Number: EENY-91
Publication Date: June 1999. Latest Revision: February 2014. Reviewed: December 2017. Reviewed: April 2021.