Philip T. Starks, associate professor of biology at the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, and doctoral student Anne A. Madden published their discovery in the "International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology." The news appeared online September 19, 2011, in advance of print.
"We found the fungus in a wasp nest near the dumpsters at Tufts University," says Madden, of the discovery. The research team set out to explore a new environment for novel species of bacteria and fungi—single-celled organisms that inhabit most places in the world. Despite there being more bacterial species in the world than stars in the sky, scientists have only described approximately 10 percent of the species thought to exist, says Madden.
Attempts to identify species are hindered by the difficulty scientists encounter when working with organisms so small that hundreds of thousands can fit on the period at the end of this sentence.
These wasps often build nests on houses, trash containers and other familiar structures.
"Nests of the invasive species of paper wasps had never been investigated for their microbial community," says Madden. "This is despite the wasp's cosmopolitan distribution and their frequent use as a model system in the field of animal behavior. Because researchers know so much about this host wasp, we thought it would be particularly valuable to characterize the microbes of the nest."
The scientists took samples from active nests and placed them in a nutrient-based medium as one would plant a garden with a handful of unknown seeds to see what grows. The researchers grew a number of different fungi and used genetic sequencing techniques to tease apart species identities. They found that one fungus had a unique gene sequence that suggested it had not previously been characterized.
A Fur-like Fungus
Further laboratory studies confirmed that the scientists had indeed discovered a new species, a fluffy, white and fast-growing fungus that resembled bunny fur, says Madden. The scientists named the new species of fungus: Mucor nidicola. They chose the species name nidicola, because the word translates from Latin to “living in another’s nest.”
The findings will contribute to understanding the diverse world of fungi. "When most people think of microbes, they immediately think of those bacteria or fungi that cause disease," says Madden. "While certain microbes do cause disease, many produce compounds or carry out reactions that are crucial for human society. In fact, most of the antibiotics on the market are actually produced by bacteria that live in the soil."
The researchers now plan to investigate further to see what other species are present in the nest's microbial community, says Madden.
"It’s shocking, but also quite exciting, that we know more about what microbes live under the sea than we do about those that associate with the insects that actually live in our houses," says Starks.
The study was funded by a Tufts Institute for the Environment fellowship, a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Research Fellowship, and Tufts University Graduate Student Research Awards
A.M. Stchigel and J.Guarro of the Universitat Rovira I Virgili, and D.A. Sutton of the University of Texas Health Science Center were co-authors on the paper.
Madden A.A., Stchigel A.M., Guarro J, Sutton D.A., Starks P.T. Mucor nidicola sp. nov., a novel fungal species isolated from an invasive paper wasp nest. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol. [Epub ahead of print] doi:10.1099/ijs.0.033050-0.
Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's schools is widely encouraged.
Alex Reid | Newswise Science News
Complementing conventional antibiotics
24.05.2018 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering
24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy