A new genus of fungi and a previously unknown species of fungi have been named by Innsbruck mycologists after their place of discovery, Tyrol. Ursula Peintner and Martin Kirchmair from the Institute of Microbiology at the University of Innsbruck have named their new discoveries "Tyroliella" and "Penicillium tirolense". The molds were described in two scientific publications.
Fungi belong to the largest groups of organisms on earth with several million species. Their diversity is enormous and, in addition to surprising properties of already known fungi, new species and genera of fungi have increasingly been discovered and described in recent years due to the improvement of research methods. For example, researchers at the Institute of Microbiology at the University of Innsbruck have discovered several previously unknown fungi in recent months. Since some of these discoveries were made on Tyrolean territory, the researchers Ursula Peintner from the research area "Fungal Ecology" and Martin Kirchmair from the area "Fungal Systematics and Taxonomy" decided to reflect this also in their naming. The newly described fungi belong to the soil fungi. Although they are microscopically small, they play a potentially important role in the (soil) ecosystem. More detailed knowledge of the complexity of fungal interactions is central to a sound understanding of ecosystem processes. Taxonomic descriptions of new fungal discoveries are therefore an important field of research in microbiology and have a decades-long tradition at the University of Innsbruck. The new fungi were described in the journals "Studies in Mycology" and "Fungal Systematics and Evolution".
Fungal genus TyroliellaExtensive soil sampling at altitudes between 1900 and 2300 meters above sea level in the border region between Tyrol and South Tyrol, such as on the Pfitscherjoch in the Zillertal, led to the discovery of a new genus of fungi of its own. "Especially in alpine and subalpine areas, soil fungi are still largely unexplored. However, with state-of-the-art molecular techniques, we can now better map the diversity," explains mycologist Ursula Peintner. The researcher and her team described a total of 13 new species and a new genus - Tyroliellia - in a recent publication. Tyroliellia is now a new genus of widespread soil fungi, and also belongs to the molds. These fungi can still grow in snow-covered soils at low temperatures, making them particularly important for alpine sites. "Soil fungi perform a key function, for example by breaking down dead plant material during the winter, and also by facilitating their growth through their interaction with bacteria and plants," clarifies Peintner. "It is precisely this interaction between organisms that will continue to occupy us in the future." Ursula Peintner dedicates her discovery, published in the renowned journal Studies in Mycology, to the province of Tyrol and the province of South Tyrol. Recently, the researcher presented a glass artwork in the shape of the Tyroliella fungal spore to the governor of South Tyrol Arno Kompatscher.
Fungal species Penicillium tirolense and Penicillium poederiThe new fungal species discovered by the team led by mycologist Martin Kirchmair are molds of the genus Penicillium. "These are chance finds that have arisen in the context of research projects around master’s theses at our institute," says Kirchmair. The actual topic was the analysis of dry rot, a wood-destroying fungus. "Samples of this fungus were taken from an infested wooden barn in Matrei am Brenner, and during analyses in the laboratory we found that it is associated with a previously unknown species of the mold genus Penicillium," says the researcher. "These are extremely slow-growing fungi, so culturing them in the lab is very complex because they can easily be overlooked. Because of the location of this initial find, we decided to name this new discovery Penicillium tirolense." Also from this mold genus is the second find, which is also described in the publication. Penicillium poederi was isolated in a soil sample from a volcanic succession site in Iceland. It is dedicated to the Austrian mycologist Reinhold "Bodo" Pöder, who died in 2015 and worked for many years at the University of Innsbruck.
Further analyses will show what other properties the newly discovered fungi have and what role they play in their respective habitats.
Telagathoti A, Probst M, Mandolini E, Peintner U (2022). Mortierellaceae from subalpine and alpine habitats: new species of Entomortierella, Linnemannia, Mortierella, Podila and Tyroliella gen. nov. Studies in Mycology 103: 25-58. DOI: 10.3114/sim.2022.103.02.
Kirchmair M, Embacher J, Heimdörfer D, Walch G, Neuhauser S (2022). Penicillium poederi and Penicillium tirolense, two new species of section Torulomyces. Fungal Systematics and Evolution 10: 91’101 .