Wednesday, 19 November 2014

An unusual Pucciniomycote Fungus from Ecuador.

Pucciniomycote Fungi (Rusts etc.) typically produce microscopic fruiting bodies, though a few do produce larger sporocarps, typically with a basal spore producing area, with spores being expelled through some sort of structure above this. However the production of such bodies seems to be scattered throughout the group (rather than found within taxonomically defined subgroups) and they seem to vary greatly in structure.

In a paper published in the journal MycoKeys on 3 November 2014, Merje Toome and Catherine Aime of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at PurdueUniversity describe a new species of sporocarp-producing Pucciniomycote Fungus from the Bilsa Biological Station in the Manabi Division of Ecuador.

The new species is described from a single colony found growing on a Palm leaf in litter in a tropical forest. Colonies of the Fungus are orange in colour, with a cushioned base and a long neck at the tip of which spores accumulate in a mucus droplet. The spores appeared to be formed asexually, and it is not clear if the Fungus has a separate sexual stage.

Field photo of fresh sporocarps on palm leaf. Note the variable size and colour of the sporocarps. Scale bar is 2 mm. Toome & Aime (2014).

A genetic analysis of the new Fungus showed it to belong within the Heterogastridiaceae, a group of Pucciniomycote Fungi which to date only contains a single species, which has never been shown to produce any similar fruiting bodies. The species is named Pycnopulvinus aurantiacus, where ‘Pycnopulvinus’ means ‘dense cushion’ and ‘aurantiacus’ means ‘orange’. Toome and Aime also note that a specimen previously recorded from Costa Rica as Pycnobasidium sp. but never formally described appears to be genetically very similar to Pycnopulvinus aurantiacus, and therefore probably represents a second species of Pycnopulvinus and a third species within the Heterogastridiaceae.

Sporocarps of various stages and sizes after drying. Scale bars are 0.5 mm. Toome & Aime (2014).

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