It turns out that the Polynesian island of Moorea is home to many unique fungi

The collected collection includes more than 200 species of large fungi, many of which are very recent to science.

The South Pacific islands are a true biodiversity hotspot. But its jagged peaks, hot and humid climate, and remote locations make it difficult for scientists to document the area’s many fascinating life forms. at New study However, the researchers wore high boots. Every day they stood in the mud – or even suspended from ropes – while fishing on the Polynesian island of Moorea. Fortunately, all this work was not in vain.

Moorea is a French Polynesian island belonging to the Society Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is located 17 kilometers west of Tahiti. “We were really interested in the island’s biodiversity,” lead researcher Todd Osmondson said. “Moorea is an island in the middle of the ocean. Moreover, it is a geologically young volcanic island. So it has not touched any other piece of land. So the question arises: How did the fungi get there and where did they come from?”

More about fungi
It is not without reason that researchers are very interested in fungi. There would be no life on Earth without fungi. Yeasts, molds and mushrooms, for example, play an important role in forest decomposition and restoration. Trees cannot live on earth without fungi. They are also important for mammalian digestion, and the global cycle of nutrients and antibiotics. What about your bread, beer, and chocolate? Moreover, fungi play an important role in our fight against climate change. Fungi help in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide and, for example, fixing carbon in soil. This occurs in boreal forests, for example, where large amounts of carbon are stored in their root symbionts with plants. As active “decomposers”, they can help clean up contaminated soil. In addition, fungi can provide a wonderful nutritional alternative to animal foods – driving deforestation and climate change – as most of the world’s tropical forests are cleared for livestock and soybeans.

To collect the samples, the research team spent months in Moria. Every day before sunrise they searched for fungi in all corners of the ecosystem; In the ground, roots, leaves, plants and even in the air. They then took their samples to the lab to document and culture the samples they found. In addition, each mushroom was photographed and dried for storage in the university herbarium and compared with known species.

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unique fungi
The study provides the first detailed description of an astonishing group of fungi indigenous to the Polynesian island of Moorea. It turns out that the island is home to many unique fungi. The collected collection includes more than 200 species of “macrofungi” – that is, fungi that contain visible mushrooms – many of which are new to science.

Pleurotus sp. , a relative of the oyster mushroom, which is collected on decaying wood. Photo: Todd Osmondson

“It’s a true treasure trove,” said researcher Matteo Garbelotto. “It remains an unexplored area in the evolutionary biology and biodiversity of the fungal kingdom. In addition, this is one of the first attempts to gather basic information on fungal diversity; not only in Moria, but throughout Oceania.”

in the wind
By comparing the DNA sequences of these fungi with those of other species, the team was also able to work out how the fungi ended up on the remote island. It leads to a wonderful discovery. Because most species have literally exploded. The results indicate that the majority of the species – or their ancestors – were carried in an easterly wind. They may have come from Australia or other islands in the South Pacific. A small number appear to have been brought to Moorea by people from as far afield – as East Asia, Europe and South America.

The data collected in the study is valuable in several ways. For example, on the one hand, it provides insight into the biodiversity of the fungi in Moria, and on the other hand it reveals how different species traveled around the world and reached remote areas. And this information can be useful, as scientists are still trying to figure out the impact of international trade on plant and animal species.

Did you know…

… Fungi are often overlooked organisms? Scientists have already called for their protection. Why is this important? You can read it here!
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