New fungus species named after Covid-19 quarantine

Hyperaxion Aug 5, 2020

Described during the Covid-19 pandemic, the microorganism was named Laboulbenia quarantenae by Belgian and Dutch researchers.

In late July, Belgian and Dutch scientists announced the discovery of two new species of fungi, according to a preprint version of the article submitted to MycoKeys.

New fungus species named after Covid-19 quarantine
Hesperomyces halyziae parasitizing a Halyzia sedecimguttata. (Credit: Maria Justamond).

The research focused on Herpomycetales and Laboulbeniales, two orders of fungi that parasitize insects, especially arthropods.

With the help of an insect trap, the researchers were able to identify 140 different types of fungi – two of which had never been described before. As one of the species was identified during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was named Laboulbenia quarantenae.

Part of Laboulbenia quarantenae. The scale bar represents 0.1 mm.
Part of Laboulbenia quarantenae. The scale bar represents 0.1 mm. (Credit: André De Kesel).

According to the team, Laboulbenia quarantenae grows externally in the body of ground beetles of the species Bembidion biguttatum, and until now it has only been found in the Botanic Garden Meise in Belgium. This suggests that it is rare and does not parasitize other types of hosts.

Both Herpomycetales and Laboulbeniales grow in such a way as to form a single three-dimensional thallus in the body of their host. Experts explain that while some species of Laboulbeniales, such as Laboulbenia quarantenae, are superficially attached to the host, others are more invasive.

Fungus of the genus Hesperomyces parasitizing a beetle.
Fungus of the genus Hesperomyces parasitizing a beetle. (Credit: Gilles San (image) and André De Kesel (drawing)).

The latter scenario is the case of Hesperomyces halyziae, the second species of fungus described by the scientists. According to them, the microorganism produces a haustorium, a structure used by the fungus to attach itself to the host and suck its nutrients.

For this reason, scientists believe that, due to their invasive nature, these haustorial parasites maintained close interactions with their hosts during their evolution – otherwise, one of them would have already disappeared.

Related topics:

Fungus

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