New species of fungi are still being discovered in Europe. A recently described fungus from Spain has now been chosen as the "New Species of the Year 2023" by the Swiss Systematics Society. This is also to draw attention to the threat to its habitat.
Juan Carlos Zamora from the Botanical Garden of Geneva and his research colleagues needed no less than twelve years of fieldwork to pinpoint the new fungal species. Clitocybula ellipsospora is the name of the small fungus whose cap is two to five centimetres in diameter. "It is very exciting to continue encountering new species of fungi in Europe even in areas with a long tradition of systematics studies in mycology," says Alice Cibois of the Swiss Systematics Society (SSS), a member organisation of the Swiss Academy of Sciences.
So far, the scientists have only found Clitocybula ellipsospora at three locations in the Spanish provinces of Burgos, Madrid and Segovia. It grows in montane pine forests on acid soils, inhabiting the nearby areas of peat bogs. This habitat is correspondingly sparse due to the dry summers in Spain and endangered by human use. The new fungus differs from its closest relatives by its unique morphology and by differences in its genome. Also for these still unnamed specimens from North America, it is possible that they might represent additional new species.
"The discovery of Clitocybula ellipsospora shows how important peatlands and nearby areas are for biodiversity," says Alice Cibois. This makes it all the more important to preserve these unique habitats. To draw attention to this, the SSS has chosen the fungus as the "New Species of the Year 2023". Whether it is edible has not yet been tested, by the way!