Tag Archives: Fungi

Friday Fellow: Common Stinkhorn

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Today things are getting sort of pornographic again. Some time ago I introduced a plant whose flowers resemble a woman’s vulva, the asian pigeonwing, and now is time to look at something of the other sex. And what could be better than the shameless penis? That’s the translation of the scientific name of this mushroom, Phallus impudicus, whose common name in English is much more discrete: common stinkhorn.

Phallus_impudicus2

Standing proud and shameless. Photo by flickr user Björn S…*

Found throughout Europe and parts of North America in deciduous woods, the common stinkhorn is easily recognizable for its phallic shape and even more for its foul smell that resembles carrion. This odor attracts insects, especially flies, that carry the spores away. This is a different method from the one used by most fungi, which simply release the spores in the air. Some people may mistake the common stinkhorn for morels (genus Morchella) but the two are completely unrelated, being from different phyla.

Despite the foul smell, the common stinkhorn is edible, especially in its first stages of development, when it resembles an egg. Due to its phallic shape, it is also seen as an aphrodisiac in some culture, as it is common with genitalia-shaped lifeforms.

Phallus_impudicus3

The immature fruiting body of Phallus impudicus is the most commonly eaten form. Photo by Danny Steven S.*

The common stinkhorn seems to have some anticoagulant properties and can be used for patients susceptible to thrombosis in the veins, such as patients treating breast cancer.

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ResearchBlogging.orgReferences:

Kuznecov, G., Jegina, K., Kuznecovs, S., & Kuznecovs, I. (2007). P151 Phallus impudicus in thromboprophylaxis in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and hormonal treatment The Breast, 16 DOI: 10.1016/s0960-9776(07)70211-4

SMITH, K. (2009). On the Diptera associated with the Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus Pers.) with notes on other insects and invertebrates found on this fungus. Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society of London. Series A, General Entomology, 31 (4-6), 49-55 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3032.1956.tb00206.x

Wikipedia. Phallus impudicus. Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phallus_impudicus&gt;. Access on March 7, 2017.

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Friday Fellow: Black Bread Mold

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Today’s Friday Fellow lives in our houses and our gardens, among our food and our crops. And every time we notice it, we get upset, because it means that something we were supposed to eat is now spoiled. Its name is Rhizopus stolonifer, or black bread mold.

rhizopus_stolonifer

The black bread mold growing on a peach. Photo by University of Georgia Plant Pathology Archive.*

Having a worldwide distribution, the black bread mold is mainly saprotrophic, growing on decaying fruits and bread. During its reproductive phase, it can be noticed as a black and hairy mold, as in the photo above. Eventually, this species can also cause an infection in human face and oropharynx, but most commonly it can be a pathogen of many plant species, thus being of economic concern.

rhizopus_stolonifer2

A closer look at the sporangia of Rhizopus stolonifer. Photo by Stanislav Krejčík.*

The black bread mold is a fungus of the order Mucorales, known as pin molds because their sporangia (the structures that contain the asexual spores) remember a pin. These sporangia, which are black, are what one usually notice growing on decaying food. When the sporangia are mature, they release spores of two kinds that germinate and originate two kinds of hyphae (known as + and -) and when two hyphae of opposite type come into contact, they fuse and create a zygospore, which then grows to originate new sporangia.

Due to its importance as an economic pest, there are many studies trying to find ways to get rid of it and very few studies trying to understand the fascinating things that it hides. What a pity.

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ResearchBlogging.orgReferences:

EOL – Encyclopedia of Life: Rhizopus stolonifer. Available at <http://eol.org/pages/2944808/overview >. Access on January 14, 2107.

Hernández-Lauzardo, A., Bautista-Baños, S., Velázquez-del Valle, M., Méndez-Montealvo, M., Sánchez-Rivera, M., & Bello-Pérez, L. (2008). Antifungal effects of chitosan with different molecular weights on in vitro development of Rhizopus stolonifer (Ehrenb.:Fr.) Vuill Carbohydrate Polymers, 73 (4), 541-547 DOI: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2007.12.020

Wikipedia. Black bread mold. Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_bread_mold >. Access on January 14, 2017.

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Friday Fellow: Witch’s Butter

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

Last week I introduced a cyanobacteria that reminds me of my childhood and that is commonly known as witch’s jelly or witch’s butter. But witch’s butter is also the common name of fungus, so I thought it would be interesting to introduce it today. Its scientific name is Tremella mesenterica.

tremella_mesenterica

Witch’s butter on dead wood. Photo by Jerzy Opiała.*

Also known as yellow brain, yellow trembler or golden jelly fungus, the witch’s butter is found in all continents and appears as a lobed and curly jelly material growing on dead wood and may be mistaken as a saprobic species, a wood decomposer, but that’s not true. The witch’s butter is actually a parasite of saprobic fungi of the genus Peniophora, such as the rosy crust Peniophora incarnata.

The witch’s butter is edible, but usually considered tasteless. Some preliminary results indicate that it may reduce blood glucose levels, therefore having the potential do be developed into a hypoglycemic agent for the treatment of diabetes mellitus.

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References:

Lo, H., Tsai, F., Wasser, S., Yang, J., & Huang, B. (2006). Effects of ingested fruiting bodies, submerged culture biomass, and acidic polysaccharide glucuronoxylomannan of Tremella mesenterica Retz.:Fr. on glycemic responses in normal and diabetic rats Life Sciences, 78 (17), 1957-1966 DOI: 10.1016/j.lfs.2005.08.033

Wikipedia. Tremella mesenterica. Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tremella_mesenterica&gt;. Access on September 22, 2016.

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Friday Fellow: Rosy Crust

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

If you are walking through a forest in Europe you may find the bark of some trees covered by a thin rosy or orange crust. Commonly known as rosy crust, its scientific name is Peniophora incarnata.

peniophora_incarnata

Rosy crust growing on a dead branch. Photo by Jerzy Opioła.*

As with most fungi, the rosy crust is saprobic, i.e., it feeds on dead material, in this case dead wood, so that it is more commonly found attached to dead branches. It affects a variety of plant species, especially flowering plants, but may eventually grow on pine trees.

Sometimes considered a pest because of its ability to rotten wood, the rosy crust has also some interesting benefits. It has shown to have antimicrobial activity, being a potential source for the production of antibiotics, and is also able to degrade some carcinogenic products used to treat wood, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

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References:

EOL – Encyclopedia of Life. Peniophora Incarnata – Rosy Crust. Available at: <http://www.eol.org/pages/1009530/overview&gt;. Access on September 22, 2016.

Lee, H., Yun, S., Jang, S., Kim, G., & Kim, J. (2015). Bioremediation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Creosote-Contaminated Soil by Peniophora incarnata KUC8836 Bioremediation Journal, 19 (1), 1-8 DOI: 10.1080/10889868.2014.939136

Suay, I., Arenal, F,, Asensio, F. J., Basilio, A., Cabello, M. A., Díez, M. T., García, J. B., González del Val, A., Gorrochategui, J., Hernández, P., Peláez, F., & Vicente, M. F. (2000). Screening of basidiomycetes for antimicrobial activities Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, 78 (2), 129-140 DOI: 10.1023/A:1026552024021

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New Species: July 11 to July 20

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Here is a list of species described from July 11 to July 20. It certainly does not include all described species. Most information comes from the journals Mycokeys, Phytokeys, Zookeys, Phytotaxa, Zootaxa, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, and Systematic and Applied Microbiology, as well as journals restricted to certain taxa.

Pseudoechthistatus sinicus(top) and P. pufujiae are two of the more than 40 new species of beetles described in the last 10 days.

Pseudoechthistatus sinicus (top) and P. pufujiae (bottom) are two of the 40 new species of beetles described in the last 10 days.

Archaea

Bacteria

SARs

Plants

Excavates

Fungi

Sponges

Flatworms

Annelids

Mollusks

Roundworms

Arachnids

Myriapods

Crustaceans

Hexapods

Cartilaginous fishes

Ray-finned fishes

Reptiles

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The blacker the better… especially in Chernobyl

ResearchBlogging.org by Piter Kehoma Boll

We all know that plants use chlorophyll and other pigments to harvest energy from light and store it in synthesized molecules, a phenomenon called photosynthesis. It’s chlorophyll that makes plants (all well as some bacteria and algae) green. This ability to create their own food via photosynthesis is what separates cyanobacteria, algae and plants from other organisms, such as animals, fungi and protozoan, as the latter are usually seen as unable to harvest energy directly from the medium.

This view is changing, however, especially for fungi.

As most organisms, fungi also have pigments, and one of the most important ones is melanin (yes, the same pigment that makes our skin, hair and eyes dark). For some time it is known that fungi living in areas with a higher incidence of solar radiation are richer in melanin than those in less illuminated areas. It happens, for example, in the black mould, Aspergillus niger, a species that attacks many vegetables, but also exists all over the world in the soil.

Aspergillus niger, the black mold, is a melaized fungus found worldwide and that seems to love ionizing radiation. Photo by wikimedia user Y_tambe.*

Aspergillus niger, the black mold, is a melaized fungus found worldwide and that seems to love ionizing radiation. Photo by wikimedia user Y_tambe.*

The simple fact that fungi exposed to higher radiation levels are darker could simply mean that they are protecting themselves using melanin from the nocive light striking them. After all, that’s what happens in animals, including humans, right?

But that’s not the case. Melanized fungi actually seem to thrive in environments with high levels of ionizing radiation (ultraviolet, x and gamma rays), which is usually seen as very dangerous to life. The walls of the damaged nuclear reactor of Chernobyl are covered in melanized fungi and they also are found living very happy on board of the Internation Space Station. Experiments showed that these melanized species of fungi seem to benefit from radiation, increasing their growth and germination.

How could this happen? Well, the only reasonable answer seems to be that melanin is acting like a photosynthetic pigment, allowing fungi to use ionizing radiation as a source of energy! And several experiments confirmed that!

Aspergillus niger growing on an onion. Image extracted from gardener.wikia.com.*

Aspergillus niger growing on an onion. Image extracted from gardener.wikia.com.*

So, the next time you see a big black mold growing somewhere, remember that it’s color is as important to it as the green is for the plants. They are really able to use melanin as plants use chlorophyll and yet they can do it using radiation that would be lethal to other lifeforms.

In the end, fungi are more similar to plants than we thought when we used to considered them to be plants too.

Too bad that we cannot use the melanin in our own skin for the same purpose…

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Reference:

Dadachova, E., & Casadevall, A. (2008). Ionizing radiation: how fungi cope, adapt, and exploit with the help of melanin Current Opinion in Microbiology, 11 (6), 525-531 DOI: 10.1016/j.mib.2008.09.013

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Friday Fellow: Bleeding Tooth Fungus

by Piter Kehoma Boll

ResearchBlogging.org Our species today is a beautiful fungus, Hydnellum peckii, the bleeding tooth fungus. It was described in 1913 by Howard J. Banker and named after the botanist C. H. Peck who collected it at North Elba, New York.

Being a mushroom, its visible part is composed by its fruit bodies which can grow up to a height of 10.5 cm. When moist, these fruit bodies exude a red juice, giving the mushroom its beautiful aspect and its common name. Found through most of North America, as well as in Eurasia, it grows from the soil and it’s usually associated with conifers of the family Pinaceae, like the genera Pinus, Picea, Tsuga, Pseudotsuga and Abies.

Young specimen of Hydndellum peckii. Photo by Wikipedia user Bernypisa. Extracted from Wikipedia.

Even though it’s not poisonous, it has such a bitter taste that it turns out to be inedible. It wouldn’t be a good idea to eat it anyway, since it bioaccumulate the heavy element Cesium-137 in its mycelium.

H. peckii was revealed to have atromentin, an effective anticoagulant similar to the heparin which has also antibacterial activity against the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, inhibiting an enzyme essential to their biosynthesis of fatty acids. Other uses of atromentin include an stimulant of smooth muscles and an inductor of apoptosis in leukemia U937 cells.

Not only beautiful, it is also very useful for medical and ecological purposes.

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References:

Banker, H. J. 1913. Type Studies in the Hydnaceae: V. The Genus Hydnellum. Mycologia, 5 (4), 194-205 DOI: 10.2307/3753385

Shiryaev, A. 2008. Diversity and distribution of thelephoroid fungi (Basidiomycota, Thelephorales) in the Sverdlovsk region, Russia. Folia Cryptogamica Estonica, 44, 131-141

Vinichuk, M. M.; Johanson, K. J. & Taylor, A. F. S. 2004. 137Cs in the fungal compartment of Swedish forest soils Science of The Total Environment, 323, 243-251 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2003.10.009

Wikipedia. Hydnellum peckii. Available online at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydnellum_peckii>. Access on August 10, 2012.

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