#FEMSmicroBlog: Eight new fungi discovered in 2023


Fungi are mysterious. According to a Kew Report on the State of the World Plant and Fungi from October 2023, we know only about 5% of the estimated 2.5 million species of fungi. Fungi do many unexpected things, especially microfungi and mycelia, and most of them do good things. Fungi need discovery and need protection, as presented by Corrado Nai in this #FEMSmicroBlog entry. Very often, it starts by naming them with the right name. #FascinatingMicrobes


Fungi at your doorstep

New fungi are discovered everywhere, even at your doorstep. In Switzerland, mycologists were surprised to find a new fungus which infects conifer trees (spruces). The fungus attacks plants by infecting not all, but some of their pollen cones, and then castrates its reproductive organs. As the fungus has a different morphology and mode of infection than related species, the mycologists concluded that it belongs to a new genus, too.

The mycologists named the new genus and the new species Microstrobilinia castrans. The genus name refers to the substrate: “microstrobilus” means “small cone” in Greek and is the botanical term for the male pollen cone of conifers. The new discovery surprised mycologists as conifers and their pathogens are generally well known in Central Europe.

Finding new fungi is exciting and sometimes unexpected in areas with long traditions of “mycophilia” (love for fungi). So much so that the Swiss Systematics Society  named the new species Clitocybula ellipsospora (actually discovered in 2022 in Spain) “New Species of the Year 2023”.

Potentially, everyone can find a new species of fungus. The Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute in The Netherlands wants to involve people in the discovery of fungi with the Citizen Science initiative “Fungi for the Future”. If you help finding a new species, your name could be immortalized in the species name of a fungus!

The “Fungi for the Future” project aims at involving citizen in the discovery of new fungi.


Fungi fighting the good fight

The activity or the effect of a fungus on another species is related to the ecological context. Everything in nature is (potentially) interconnected, and many fungi, from a human-centric perspective, have promising properties.

Two new yeasts discovered this year, Hannaella oleicumulans and Hannaella higashiohmiensis, could possibly help reduce crude oil extraction if used industrially for biodiesel production. During fermentation of sugars these yeasts produce fatty molecules rather than alcohol or other fermentation products.

A new fungus seems to be helpful in the fight against food contamination. The new filamentous fungus called Acremonium sp. TUS-MM1 can degrade the mycotoxin (toxin of fungal origin) patulin, which can be present on rotting fruits. Patulin is toxic to cells as it attacks antioxidant molecules within the body.

Acremonium sp. TUS-MM1 is a new fungus able to metabolize patulin into a less-toxic molecule (from Mita et al. 2023).


New fungi, known names

Although fungi are often given a Latin name based on scientific criteria, it is possible for people to be named after them. This was the case for two new species of yeast after a journalist and a climate activist were murdered in the Amazon rainforest: Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. The two new fungi, Spathaspora domphillipsii and Spathaspora brunopereirae, are named to honour the memory of the two men who dedicated their lives in protecting the Amazon rainforest, home to the 10% of all biodiversity.

In another instance, researchers named the new species of “magic” mushroom Psilocybe stametsii as a tribute after the renowned mycologist, entrepreneur, and fungi educator Paul Stamets.

Whether in discovery, education, citizen science projects, or conservation, naming fungi the “right” way is very important, not only at the species level. Often, in government and constituent documents, only Flora and Fauna are mentioned. How do we protect something that is not mentioned? The “Fauna Flora Funga” initiative by the Fungi Foundation, the first non-governmental agency fully devoted to fungi, advocates to include fungi in global conservation priorities – starting with the use of a more inclusive language.

The logo of the “Fauna Flora Funga” initiative.

If you’ve read this far it seems you have an interest in fungi! Make sure to check out the latest research in FEMS Yeast Research to learn even more.

About the author of this blog

Dr Corrado Nai has been collaborating with FEMS for the past eight years. He believes fungi deserve more attention and recognition from everyone, and more protection from organisatoins and government authorities able to make a difference. Since 2023 he is member of JoNeF (the Joint Network for Wild Fungi). He loves writing about fungi.

About this blog section

The section #FascinatingMicrobes for the #FEMSmicroBlog explains the science behind a paper and highlights the significance and broader context of a recent finding. One of the main goals is to share the fascinating spectrum of microbes across all fields of microbiology.

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The #FEMSmicroBlog welcomes external bloggers, writers and SciComm enthusiasts. Get in touch if you want to share your idea for a blog entry with us!

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