The name of the fungus | Science News

MISSION CRITICAL

Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


Feature

The name of the fungus

Genetic advances spur mycologists to put their kingdom in order

By
1:55pm, April 18, 2014

DEFINING A KINGDOM  In the peculiar, shape-shifting world of fungi (Erysiphe guttata shown), a rebellion has broken out against the traditional way of naming species. 

To a visitor walking down, down, down the white cinder block stairwell and through metal doors into the basement, Building 010A takes on the hushed, mile-long-beige-corridor feel of some secret government installation in a blockbuster movie.

It’s not open to sightseers, but it’s far from secret. No jut-jawed military escort leads the way; biologist Shannon Dominick wears a striped sweater as she strolls through this Fort Knox of fungus, merrily discussing certain specimens in the vaults that are commonly called “dog vomit fungi.”

This basement on the campus of the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md., holds the second largest fungus collection in the world, with at least 1,000,000 specimens. Snuggled into exquisitely customized boxes and folders stored in high banks of institutional-beige metal cabinets are organisms that can glow in the dark, turn living ants into leaf-biting zombies, fetch thousands of dollars per pound at gourmet

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content