Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

World-first Australian truffle find

07.01.2003



An Australian scientist has made a discovery which is electrifying world fungal biology - a new truffle genus related to the famous Amanita family, or fairy toadstools.

The Amanita family is famed worldwide for the red and white-spotted toadstools beloved of children’s fairy tales, the lethal Death Cap beloved of tabloid media, and a range of delicious edible fungi beloved of gourmets.

The find, by CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products mycologist Dr Neale Bougher, highlights Australia as one of the richest centers of truffle biodiversity on the planet.



Until Dr Bougher discovered the new fungus in the rejuvenating forest landscape of a former bauxite mine near Perth, WA, no one had ever found a truffle - or underground mushroom - related to Amanita.

"It’s not just a new species. It’s a whole new genus," he explains. "Scientists have been looking for this round the world for well over a century - and here it is, in Australia."

Since the original find by Dr Bougher, he and colleague Dr Teresa Lebel of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, have identified no fewer than five new species of what has now been scientifically named Amarrendia - a marriage of the names Amanita and Torrendia, the two families of fungi most closely related to the discovery.

The CSIRO researcher was part of a team studying landscape rehabilitation at the Darling Escarpment bauxite mine run by Alcoa World Alumina Australia - regarded as a global benchmark for successful restoration - when he literally unearthed the new genus.

"I had my suspicions the moment I picked it up in the field. I got a bit excited - but I couldn’t be absolutely certain. So I rushed back to the lab and put it under the microscope - and, immediately I saw the characteristic Amanita structures.

"I went crazy. At least, I am sure the people in the lab thought I was crazy. I was yelling "This has got to be a truffle Amanita," the (normally quite cool) Dr Bougher recalls.

The truffles in question are white and about the size of marbles, though Dr Bougher has since found specimens as large as a decent kiwifruit.

More important for him, however, is what the truffle means for Australia’s environment.

First, it adds to a growing view that Australia is one of the planet’s mega-biodiverse centers for truffles, which are important elements in soil health.

"So far we’ve found nearly 90 genera of truffles and over 300 species here. 35 per cent of the genera and 95 per cent of the species occur nowhere else on Earth," he says. "That rivals the uniqueness of our plants - and we’re only scratching the surface in what we know about fungi."

Second, truffles are a favourite food of native marsupials like potoroos and woylies and rely on them to disperse their spores.

Whether the Amarrendia truffles are safe to eat or not is unknown, as Dr Bougher says specimens are so precious every one has been taken into scientific collections. However, as no other truffle has proved poisonous and because they rely on mammals to transport their spores, he thinks it unlikely, in spite of their toxic Amanita relatives. He advises against anyone trying them until this has been checked out, however.

Third, underground fungi, including truffles, are essential to landscape health. Fungi like truffles unlock nutrients for native plants, and break down the tough Australian timber to form fertile new soil. They create hollows in logs where birds and animals can nest, and turn hard wood into food for insects.

Many eucalypts, wattles and sheoaks depend critically on certain fungi, making them a primary factor in the survival and renewal of landscapes. In fact, Dr Bougher argues, we face difficulty repairing and revegetating our landscapes unless the soil fungi are in place to help the trees and shrubs to grow, and nutrient cycling to re-establish. We need to include them in "best practice" restoration planning and operations.

"Many mysteries remain unresolved in the Kingdom of the Fungi - and Australia has a big role to play in helping to unravel them," he says. "The ’truffle Amanita’ is an example of how much there is to find.

"So far only about ten per cent of Australia’s native fungi are known to science, yet they are one of the most pervasive and important life forms on the continent. "

The discovery came about as a result of a partnership in landscape restoration between Alcoa World Alumina Australia, Worsley Alumina Pty. Ltd., Murdoch University and CSIRO - highlighting the value of a team approach to science, he adds.

To view a larger version of the image above click here.

More information:

Dr Neale Bougher, CSIRO Forestry & Forest Products, 08 9333 6673
Neale.Bougher@csiro.au

Mick Crowe, CSIRO Forestry & Forest Products, 02 6281 8357, 0419 696 184

Rosie Schmedding | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New sensor detects rare metals used in smartphones
24.04.2019 | Penn State

nachricht Controlling instabilities gives closer look at chemistry from hypersonic vehicles
24.04.2019 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Energy-saving new LED phosphor

The human eye is particularly sensitive to green, but less sensitive to blue and red. Chemists led by Hubert Huppertz at the University of Innsbruck have now developed a new red phosphor whose light is well perceived by the eye. This increases the light yield of white LEDs by around one sixth, which can significantly improve the energy efficiency of lighting systems.

Light emitting diodes or LEDs are only able to produce light of a certain colour. However, white light can be created using different colour mixing processes.

Im Focus: Quantum gas turns supersolid

Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.

Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Proteins stand up to nerve cell regression

24.04.2019 | Life Sciences

New sensor detects rare metals used in smartphones

24.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Controlling instabilities gives closer look at chemistry from hypersonic vehicles

24.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>