Our lab group does research in the area of fungal biology in which we study taxonomy, life histories, and systematics – particularly of fungi in the Pezizomycetes, the Orbiliomycetes and recently in the Laboulbeniomycetes.
Pfister, D. (Photographer). (2008) Fistulina after harvest [photograph]. Punta Arenas, Chile.
Haelwaters, D. (Photographer). (2013). Laetiporus sulphureus – Chicken of the woods. [photograph]. Hingham, MA: Worlds End.
Arthropod–fungus interactions involving the Laboulbeniomycetes have been pondered for several hundred years. Early studies of Laboulbeniomycetes faced several uncertainties. Were they parasitic worms, red algal relatives, or fungi? If they were fungi, to which group did they belong? What was the nature of their interactions with their arthropod hosts? The historical misperceptions resulted from the extraordinary morphological features of these oddly constructed ectoparasitic fungi. More recently, molecular phylogenetic studies, in combination with a better understanding of life histories, have clearly placed these fungi among filamentous Ascomycota (subphylum Pezizomycotina). Species discovery and research on the classification of the group continue today as arthropods, and especially insects, are routinely collected and examined for the presence of Laboulbeniomycetes. Newly armed with molecular methods, mycologists are poised to use Laboulbeniomycetes–insect associations as models for the study of a variety of basic evolutionary and ecological questions involving host–parasite relationships, modes of nutrient intake, population biology, host specificity, biological control, and invasion biology. Collaboration between mycologists and entomologists is essential to successfully advance knowledge of Laboulbeniomycetes and their intimate association with their hosts.
Gómez-Zapata P.A., D. Haelewaters, L. Quijada, D.H. Pfister and M.C. Aime. 2021. Notes on Trochila (Ascomycota, Leotiomycetes), with new species and combinations. MycoKeys 78: 21-47.
Studies of Trochila (Leotiomycetes, Helotiales, Cenangiaceae) are scarce. Here, we describe two new species based on molecular phylogenetic data and morphology. Trochila bostonensis was collected at the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Massachusetts. It was found on the stem of Asclepias syriaca, representing the first report of any Trochila species from a plant host in the family Apocynaceae. Trochila urediniophila is associated with the uredinia of the rust fungus Cerotelium fici. It was discovered during a survey for rust hyperparasites conducted at the Arthur Fungarium, in a single sample from 1912 collected in Trinidad. Macro- and micromorphological descriptions, illustrations, and molecular phylogenetic analyses are presented. The two new species are placed in Trochila with high support in both our six-locus (SSU, ITS, LSU, rpb1, rpb2, tef1) and two-locus (ITS, LSU) phylogenetic reconstructions. In addition, two species are combined in Trochila: Trochila colensoi (formerly placed in Pseudopeziza) and T. xishuangbanna (originally described as the only species in Calycellinopsis). This study reveals new host plant families, a new ecological strategy, and a new country record for the genus Trochila. Finally, our work emphasizes the importance of specimens deposited in biological collections such as fungaria.
Põlme, S., K. Abarenkov, R.H. Nilsson, B.D .Lindahl, K.E. Clemmensen, H. Kauserud, N. Nguyen, R. Kjøller, S.T. Bates, P. Baldrian, T.G. Frøslev, K. Adojaan, A. Vizzini, A.Suija, D.H. Pfister, et al. 2021. FungalTraits: a user-friendly traits database of fungi and fungus-like stramenopiles. Fungal Diversity.
The cryptic lifestyle of most fungi necessitates molecular identification of the guild in environmental studies. Over the past decades, rapid development and affordability of molecular tools have tremendously improved insights of the fungal diversity in all ecosystems and habitats. Yet, in spite of the progress of molecular methods, knowledge about functional properties of the fungal taxa is vague and interpretation of environmental studies in an ecologically meaningful manner remains challenging. In order to facilitate functional assignments and ecological interpretation of environmental studies we introduce a user friendly traits and character database FungalTraits operating at genus and species hypothesis levels. Combining the information from previous efforts such as FUNGuild and FunFun together with involvement of expert knowledge, we reannotated 10,210 and 151 fungal and Stramenopila genera, respectively. This resulted in a stand-alone spreadsheet dataset covering 17 lifestyle related traits of fungal and Stramenopila genera, designed for rapid functional assignments of environmental studies. In order to assign the trait states to fungal species hypotheses, the scientific community of experts manually categorised and assigned available trait information to 697,413 fungal ITS sequences. On the basis of those sequences we were able to summarise trait and host information into 92,623 fungal species hypotheses at 1% dissimilarity threshold.
The Glass Flowers exhibit is one of the major attractions at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. This remarkable collection is the product of the father and son artists-naturalists, Leopold (1822-1895) and Rudolf Blaschka (1857-1939). These renowned artists and glassworkers created life-like models that allow museum visitors to experience both the familiar and the exotic. Their masterful work, informed by detailed studies of each plant from nature, employed inventive methods to shape and color glass; they developed methods to mimic the surface textures and colors of leaves, branches, and flowers. Why did the Blaschkas produce this collection and who inspired them in this endeavor? To answer this question, we look deeply into the initiation of the project and the era in which the models were made.
Harmonia axyridis is an invasive alien ladybird in North America and Europe. Studies show that multiple natural enemies are using Ha. axyridis as a new host. However, thus far, no research has been undertaken to study the effects of simultaneous infection by multiple natural enemies on Ha. axyridis. We hypothesized that high thallus densities of the ectoparasitic fungus Hesperomyces virescens on a ladybird weaken the host’s defenses, thereby making it more susceptible to infection by other natural enemies. We examined mortality of the North American-native Olla v-nigrum and Ha. axyridis co-infected with He. virescens and an entomopathogenic fungus—either Beauveria bassiana or Metarhizium brunneum. Laboratory assays revealed that He. virescens-infected O. v-nigrum individuals are more susceptible to entomopathogenic fungi, but Ha. axyridis does not suffer the same effects. This is in line with the enemy release hypothesis, which predicts that invasive alien species in new geographic areas experience reduced regulatory effects from natural enemies compared to native species. Considering our results, we can ask how He. virescens affects survival when confronted by other pathogens that previously had little impact on Ha. axyridis. View Infographic here