Monday, March 26, 2012

IUCN's 100 Worst Invasive Species

I'm not sure why I didn't come across this sooner, but today is the day I learned about IUCN's list of the 100 Worst Invasive Species.  Not surprisingly, there are some fungi (and two fungus-like protistans) on there, though not as many as I might have thought.  They list five species, of which I would have guessed that four of them.  Reflecting their bias towards macroorganisms,  there are NO bacteria on the list, but two viruses (which are not even alive, in my well-supported opinion) and one non-funguslike protist (the avian malaria pathogen, Plasmodium relictum, an apicomplexan).  Also, the invasives are bad because they are disease agents of larger, more charismatic eukaryotes.  They do indicate that the criteria for selection includes "serious impact on biodiversity and/or human activities". 

Their five fungi and funguslike organisms?
Cryphonectria parasitica (Ascomycota), causal agent of chestnut blight
Ophiostoma ulmi (Ascomycota), causal agent of Dutch elm disease
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Chytridiomycota), causal agent of frog
Phytophthora cinnamomi (Oomycota), causal agent of Jarrah dieback etc.
Aphanomyces astaci (Oomycota), causal agent of crayfish plague

The last of these, I had never heard of before.  I'd heard of the genus before, but I'd forgotten that it's an oomycete genus. The IUCN describes these as "macrofungi", though I would say none of them really are, except the pycnidia and perithecial stromata of C. parasitica are visible to the naked eye.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Alaskan rust spores identified!

At long last, the news I've been waiting for!  The mysterious Alaskan orange goo, thought at first to have been eggs of something, or possibly the dinonflagellate Noctiluca, later discovered to be rust spores, has been positively identified. The mystery rust is Chrysomyxa ledicola, which causes spruce-labrador tea needle rust.  The spores identified were the urediniospores, which is known as the repeating stage of macrocyclic rusts.  It is common for rusts to produce ba-jillions of spores, especially urediniospores, to keep reinfecting their alternate hosts.  In this case, that alternate host is labrador tea Ledum spp., though the NCCOS webpage lists it as Rhododendron tomentosum.   That name isn't accepted by, which is my source for this kind of information.  That fact helps explain how the source of the orange goo was originally so mysterious.  While the primary host, spruces (Picea spp.), are a group that would be difficult to hide that many spores on without someone taking notice, labrador tea is a common understory plant that wouldn't raise as many alarm flags.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores, my review

After enjoying Mushroom so much, I thought I'd check out another one of Dr. Nicholas Money's offerings, Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores: a Natural History of Toxic Mold (2004, Oxford Univ. Press). This book focuses on the mold Stachybotrys, which has been correlated with some severe health problems.  I wonder if just including the name of this genus will increase my spam-commenting? 

He focuses on Stachybotrys and discusses the strange intersection of the fungus and humanity. Physicians and lawyers delve into mycology.  This part, I must confess, held little pleasure for me.  I was hoping for more of the insightful pop-mycology (if such a thing exists) that I read about in Mushroom.  I was hoping for more about the common molds that surround us in our daily lives, and I enjoyed the last chapter best of all (about dry rot fungi, Serpula and Meruliporia), not only because of the more interesting (to me) biology of these fungi, but also because of the smirk-inducing humor.

I've gotten to see a fair amount of buzz around Mushroom, as Dr. Money presses the flesh in support of it.  Some of my Facebook friends posted about the interview, which resonated mostly around the finding of a sporocarp of Schizophyllum commune in the back of a patient's throat.  Yes, that is disgusting, but unlikely to happen to those in decent health and good hygiene.

In summary, I don't have much to say about Carpet Monsters.  I would hazard most of the audience for this book is comprised of people with a vested interest in sick-buildings and Stachybotrys (Here I expect a bump in spam commenting) rather than a fellow mycologist like myself.  And for those who pick it up with that purpose, you will find the book to be well-researched, and not overly technical (though a basic understanding of biology is always helpful).  If you are interested in getting your beak wet with fungi in general,  I would start with Mushroom.  Though again, I haven't read Mr. Bloomfield's Orchard or Triumph of the Fungi yet.  One of those will probably be next.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Plug for Forever Wild

As a person who spends a lot of time outdoors, I think it necessary to put in a good word for the Forever Wild Program here in Alabama. From what I've been told, the program acquires land using monies collected from state oil and gas leases (not taxes), which are then managed by the state for the use of all Alabamians, including hunters and fisherman as well as birdwatchers, tree huggers, and fungal foragers like myself.