Researchers from the Danish Museum of Natural History at the University of Copenhagen found a new type of parasitic fungus via Twitter. This social network was viewed by biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira. There, she stumbled upon a photograph of a North American millipede shared by her American counterpart Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech. She noticed a few tiny dots that turned out to be a new kind of parasitic fungus. He was called Troglomyces twitteri. It is reported by MycoKeys.
A new species of Troglomyces twitteri belongs to the order of microscopic parasitic fungi, known as Laboulbeniales. These fungi live on insects, arachnids, and millipedes and rely on host organisms to survive.
Together with her colleague Henrik Engoff, she discovered several samples of the same mushroom on several American millipedes in the huge collection of the Museum of Natural History. Which she went to with her colleague after viewing the photo on Twitter. This confirms the existence of a previously unknown species of Laboulbeniales – tiny, bizarre, and mostly unknown fungal parasites that attack insects and millipedes.
Happy to see the first #Laboulbeniales paper in @MycoKeys. @SReboleira et al. describe a #NewSpecies of Troglomyces from an American millipede—discovered here on @Twitter thanks to a photo posted by @derekhennen! https://t.co/ZVwKgdWxa9 #SocialMedia #FungalDiversity pic.twitter.com/aWtjAciwBo
— Dr. Danny Haelewaters 🇧🇪🇪🇺🏳️🌈 (@dhaelewa) May 14, 2020
The recently discovered parasitic fungus was officially Latin named Troglomyces twitteri. Ana Sofia Reboleira notes that this discovery is an example of how the exchange of information on social networks can lead to completely unexpected results:
“To our knowledge, this is the first time that a new species has been discovered on Twitter. He emphasizes the importance of social platforms for sharing research and, therefore, for achieving new results. I hope that this will motivate professionals and amateur researchers to share a lot of data through social networks. “This is becoming increasingly apparent during the crisis with coronavirus, a time when so many are prevented from getting into the field or laboratories”.
Ana Sofia Reboleira, author of the discovery
Thanks to the extensive museum collection, it was relatively easy to confirm that scientists had indeed found a whole new species for science. This shows how valuable museum collections are. In these collections, much more is hidden than scientists know at the moment.
Labulbeniales mushrooms look like tiny larvae. They belong to their class because they live outside the host organisms or in certain parts of the body, in this case, in the reproductive organs of millipedes. The fungus sucks the food from the host animal, penetrating the outer shell using a special suction structure, while the other half of the fungus emerges on the surface.
In total, about 30 different species of parasitic labulbeniales fungi attack centipedes. The vast majority of them were discovered only after 2014. According to Reboleira, they are likely to find a lot more. Research in the field of Laboulbeniales remains extremely scarce.
Little is also known about their own biology. These mushrooms can tell not only about the insects on which they live but also about the mechanisms of parasitism itself, that is, about the relationship between parasites and their owners. Scientists hope that the study will also provide useful knowledge about parasites that attack and can be harmful to human health.