A significant challenge: millions of unknown microspecies of fungi are to be given names – scientists at the TBG LOEWE Centre involved in the strategy
Alongside edible mushrooms, yeast fungi and different kinds of moulds, there are millions of small types of fungi, which have not been given a name up to now – so-called microfungi. Some of them are only known from genetic analyses of environmental samples. A team of research scientists, including Professor Dr Marco Thines from the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics (TBG) in Frankfurt/Main, is now presenting new opportunities for giving names to microfungi.
The challenge in this new strategy for finding names is that the scientists only know the DNA sequences of the new genetic lineage of the types of fungi. The appearance and mode of life of most of them are not known. One suggestion from the team of scientists involves assigning an individual identification number to the fungi, which will then be maintained, even during more precise identification at a later stage. However, a fixed name for a fungus is also very significant. Many fungi are pathogens and a precise description is crucial for successfully treating the patients affected by them.
Rules for naming fungi were drawn up ten years ago and they are updated every four to six years. Innovative methods of genomics now call for extensive new developments.
This means a lot of work for fungi specialists, but it is worthwhile, according to Thines. “Fungi are important as pathogens and as suppliers of natural substances for naturally controlling pests, for biofuels, food or medicines,” says the biologist. “But that’s not all. Fungi are the third essential pillar of our ecosystems alongside animals and plants. Only if we know them and can name them, is it possible to systematically conduct research into, protect and then preserve this biological diversity.”
The various systems for giving names have been published in the “Nature Microbiology” specialist journal.