People tend to forget that fungi are microorganisms too. Often only associated with their seasonal, ephemeral manifestations (mushrooms), fungi are in fact an extremely vast and still rather mysterious kingdom. In this #FEMSmicroBlog post, Corrado Nai presents seven new fungi discovered in 2022 – just a minuscule fraction of the astounding fungal diversity out there. #FascinatingMicrobes
Early naturalists exploring the wilderness considered only encountering Fauna and Flora, umbrella terms once commonly used to describe the natural world. Animals and plants were everything what they expected to find, describe, collect, and fend off.
Naturalists didn’t consider what they did not see or care about: microorganisms, and amongst them, fungi. Virtually everything is connected to fungi: agriculture, medicine, biotechnology, food production, the ecosystem, the economy. Our environment and our own existence depend on fungi, on what they produce, on their biodegrading properties, and on their symbiotic alliances.
Today, fungi are increasingly studied, recognized, and present in the public eye. Around 150,000 fungi are known to science, with some estimates saying that this is a mere 5-10 % of all fungi.
This blog entry presents a tiny number of new fungi discovered in 2022. With around 2000 fungi discovered each year, the list is neither exhaustive nor representative. But it offers a glimpse into the incredible diversity and potential of a fascinating kingdom.
Yeasts to marvel at and to hunt for
Microbes and fungi and everywhere, including in the air we breathe, the buildings we live in, the food and drinks we consume, and the art we marvel at.
A team of fungal researchers found the so-called ‘Da Vinci yeast’ – the new species Blastobotrys davincii. Its tolerance to desiccation allows this yeast to thrive on samples of house dust as well as on the self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, from where the researchers sampled it.
Another yeast (albeit not a new species, but rather a new strain), was isolated in Europe, among the excitement of the brewing and yeast research community.
Saccharomyces eubayanus, one of the parents (together with the brewer’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae) of the Lager yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus, has been isolated for the first time in the old continent in 2022, among the amazement of many.
A new queen and a new class in the kingdom
Hydnum reginae is a new species of a rare basidiomycete (previously thought to be H. albidum) named to honour the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022. The species, with pointy spines rather than gills, was discovered in ancient beech woodlands of White Down, Surrey, by British field mycologists and experts from the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
Not a new species, but a whole new class of fungi saw the light in 2022: the Lichinomycetes.
By investigating several uncultured, undersampled, non-model fungi from the ascomycota, a team of researchers discovered that very different species from lichenized, mycorrhizal, endophytes, and insect symbionts are actually related. The new clade (the Lichinomycetes class actually existed before, but the researchers added a whole lot of phylogenetic clarity to the mix) has simplified genomes, with less genes involved in carbon catabolism and secondary metabolism. This explains why this highly diverse clade share a common trait: symbiotic lifestyle.
Ending with a bang
Researchers discovered not one species, but two genera (and well, two species) looking at Ophiocordyceps, the ‘zombie ant fungus:’ Niveomyces coronatus and Torrubiellomyces zombiae. The two new fungi are mycoparasites of the ‘zombie ant fungus,’ that it, they parasite a parasite.
As ‘enemy of the enemy,’ these new species can help in biocontrol, and in the fight against animal and plants pathogens.
A new insect parasite (in this case, a fungus parasitizing spiders), was discovered in 2022. The species Gibellula bang-bangus derives the name from its isolation place, a gunpowder store, as confirmed by CABI – the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International.
Albeit only a few hundred fungi are known to be pathogenic to humans, let’s not forget the threat fungi pose in an ever-connected, changing (i.e. warming) world, with the first ever WHO list of health-threatening fungi (2022). For an overview of the State of the World’s Fungi, see the Kew Gardens report (next one due in October 2023).
The Flora and Fauna International is a non-profit established in 1903 with conservation goals. Over one century later, the Fauna Flora Funga initiative aims at embedding fungi within conservation goals – and you can become a signatory too.
Did we forget to include other fungi discovered in 2022 but worth mentioning? Do you want to present new microorganisms discovered in 2023? Reach out to us!
Corrado Nai is part of the FEMS Team and what he enjoys the most is working with professionals at different career stages from across Europe and the world involved with FEMS. A former fungal researcher turned community manager, he is passionate about all things fungi. He enjoyed exploring new species of fungi discovered in 2022 to write this article.
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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