UF/IFAS researcher discovers new species of fungi

Cladophialophora floridana

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The next time you take a stroll through the woods here in Gainesville, you might want to look down – you could be walking on an undiscovered species of fungus.

University of Florida post-doctoral researcher Keisuke Obase did just that recently, finding the newly named Cladophialophora floridana, in honor of the state, at Split Rock Conservation Area and C. tortuosa at Bivens Arm Nature Park.  The discoveries have been accepted for publication in the journal Mycoscience.

“It was really fun, especially to name a new species,” said Obase, who now works for the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute in Japan.

Both new species were growing on sclerotia, a small fungal survival structure that is found in soil.  Under the microscope, these new fungi look like a necklace made of baroque – or misshapen – pearls. A genetic analysis of both fungi showed that they were previously unknown species.

“These new species were found right here in town and the fact that we found these two with little effort suggests there are a lot more new and undescribed fungal species that we walk over all the time,” said Matthew Smith, an assistant professor in UF’s Department of Plant Pathology and the curator of the UF Fungal Herbarium.

Some of the 32 currently accepted species of Cladophialophora fungi are known infectious carriers to humans, some mammals and a few plants. They live in different kinds of environments, including pine-oak and bamboo forests, along with mangrove burrows. According to Obase, the wide array of habitats where the Cladophialophora species have been collected suggests that each species within the genus may have a different ecological niche.

Obase said the next step is to find out the ecology of the new fungi to determine their role in nature.

“We think that these fungi may be parasites of other fungi, but since they are only recently discovered there is a lot we still need to learn,” Obase said.

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, k.moore.wilmoth@ufl.edu

Sources: Keisuke Obase, obasek@affrc.go.jp

Matthew Smith 352-273-2837, trufflesmith@ufl.edu

Photo Caption: Cladophialophora floridana.  UF/IFAS

-30-