Thursday, 26 May 2011

Top 10 new species: Fungi 2, Plants 0


At 2 am this morning I caught a taxi to the BBC radio studios in Woods Lane, to join Dr Karl (from Australia, operating at the reasonable time of mid-morning in Sydney) on Dotun Adebayo's Up All Night from 3-4 am.

Despite the unsociable timing, it was a hoot. Mostly it was talk back, with topics from hairy arm pits to whether plants would survive in a sealed jar on Mars. One question was whether fungi were more closely related to plants or animals.

Of course this is an easy one. Recent DNA evidence has confirmed that the fungi and animals share a common ancestor not shared by the plants. In other words, fungi are more closely related to animals than plants. Despite this we allow mycologists (fungal experts) to work in botanic gardens, along with phycologists (algal experts, like myself) even though many algae are very distantly related to plants.

Anyway, this makes the announcement of the top 10 new species described in 2010, released on 23 May to conincide with the 304th birthday of Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who devised the naming system we use for all organisms on Earth, more shocking.

There is a leech, a bacterium, a fish, a cockroach, a lizard, an antelope, a spider, a cricket and two fungi, but no plants! Poor old Linnaeus. Celebrating his birthday without a floral present.

Still, the fungi are fun, as always. There is the aquatic mushroom I posted about early last year. Plus a bioluminescent species from Brazil. This one has fruiting caps less than 2 cm in diameter, but atop a stem that apparently glows constantly. It's called Mycena luxaeterna (the species name means eternal light and is a nod to a movement in Mozart's Requiem).

Any interesting plants described last year?

Image: the new glow-in-the-dark Mycena,one of the 'Top 10' species described last year. Picture from http://species.asu.edu/2011_species02 and © Cassius V. Stevani/IQ-USP, Brazil.

6 comments:

Brett Summerell said...

Clearly this shouldn't be a surprise!

Merricks said...

Very disappointing that there are no plants. Because apart from their wonderful structures, their pollination and other stories are extraordinarily fascinating. Sex which depends on a multiplicity of other animals is surely extraordinary.

And in this vein. there is a plant on Lady Elliott Island with extremely sticky seeds and in the sands of the island seems to have evolved a way of fertilizing itself. Any baby bird and even adult birds who tangle with its sticky bits, which are everywhere, dies. Despite this possible end, the terns nested in its branches and each day we would see chicks dying to fertilise the tree...
I always tend to think of trees as having slower evolutionary cycles than birds, so I like the science-fiction nature of this tree.

Tim Entwisle said...

Yes! Everything is interconnected. The plants also need fungi in many cases to help them get the nutrients they need from the soil. I'm sure there were some fascinating plant species described in 2010 but the more 'active' (or faster) organisms get the attention!

Merricks said...

I note however, that one of the ten concerns a plant: The cricket which pollinates Angraecum cadetii, and features on the Kew website at

http://www.kew.org/news/first-cricket-as-an-orchid-pollinator-captured-on-film.htm
.

Merricks said...

I wondered how rare pollinating crickets might be and include links to two photos of Jean Hort, which might also be related to pollination??
Cricket on mint and
Raspy cricket

Tim Entwisle said...

According to the Kew article (http://www.kew.org/about-kew/press-media/press-releases-kew/cricket-orchid-pollinator/) this is the first cricket confirmed as a pollinator. Mostly, of course, they eat plants. I'm sure there is a bit incidental pollination going on but had to know how important it is.
Tim