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.