Fungus in America: 44,488 species and counting
New compilation finds European names mask new types of mushrooms and moulds. Nick Carne reports.
Scientists have compiled the longest list yet of known North America fungi, with 44,488 entries covering the US, Canada and Mexico.
That may be just a start – mycologist Andrew Millar says less than a third of all fungi thought to exist on the continent has so far been documented – but it is a good start.
“Many fungi in North America have European names, and while they may be related to their European counterparts, they often are genetically distinct,” he says.
“About half of the 44,488 fungi in the new checklist are type specimens, which means they are valid North American taxa.”
Millar is from the Illinois Natural History Survey and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he led the team that compiled the data by searching more than 2.2 million records using the Mycology Collections Portal, which includes data from numerous universities, botanical gardens and other institutions.
They first built a checklist of all North American fungal species and subspecies, then removed those categorised as lichen and organised things alphabetically by genus and species. The final list is published in the journal Mycologia.
About 20,000 of the fungi on the list are mushrooms; the rest are barely visible with the naked eye and are thus classified as microfungi. These include moulds, mildews and rusts, along with species that break down organic matter in the soil.
“This checklist provides the basis for understanding our national mycoflora, which is timely since there is renewed interest in cataloguing all North American fungi,” says Millar.
“Hundreds of citizen scientists are interested in helping with this project.”