The excellent microbiology blog Small Things Considered is celebrating the beginning of mushroom collecting season with a weeks worth of fungal posts. So far, they have discussed identifying poisonous mushrooms AFTER cooking them using real-time PCR, how wood-rotting fungi might actually improve the sound of your favorite stringed instrument, and the toxins found in the some of the deadly species of Amanita. Tune in later this week for the last two installments.
NPR had a story this weekend on Cocoa plantation collapse and the ecological aftermath of the changes the witches’ broom fungus Moniliophthora perniciosa has wreaked. The genome sequence project for this Homobasidiomycete fungus (also known as Crinipellis perniciosa, phylogenetic relationships discussed by Aime and Philips-Mora 2005) is underway at the Laboratory Genomica e Expressao at UNICAMP, Brazil. The witches’s broom (not this witches’ broom) is named because of the bristly form it induces in the cacao plants.
The genome project will hopefully improve the diagnosis and treatment work that is needed. Beyond the insatiable need for chocolate, the NPR story does talk about the impact on farmers, the economy, and the environment with the loss of these cacao plantations.
- A Not-So-Sweet Lesson from Brazil’s Cocoa Farms
- Witches’ Broom and Frosty Pod waft deadly through the jungle night
- Link from Ohio State University Cacao disease research
- STATUS OF CACAO WITCHES’ BROOM: Biology, Epidemiology, and Management, Annual Review of Phytopathology
Dave Hibbett wrote a great article for Mycological Research that describes the current state of systematics and evolutionary studies of morphology in mushroom-forming Agaricomycete fungi. His article, dedicated to the late, great mycologist Orson K Miller, Jr and entitled “After the gold rush, or before the flood? Evolutionary morphology of mushroom-forming fungi (Agaricomycetes) in the early 21st century” describes the how classification and systematics has changed in the last two hundred years and macromorphology to the more than “108,000 nucleotide sequences of ‘homobasidiomycetes’, filed under 7300 unique names.”
I’m including a recapping as many of the talks as I remember. There were 6 concurrent sessions each afternoon so you have to miss a lot of talks. The conference was bursting at the seams as it was- at least 140 people had to be turned away beyond the 750 who attended.
If there was any theme in the conference it was “Hey we are all using these genome sequences we’ve been talking about getting”. I only found the overview talks that solely describe the genome solely a little dry as compared to those more focused on particular questions. I guess my genome palate is becoming refined.