When: 2012-10-25

Collection location: Franklin Parker Preserve, Woodland Twp., New Jersey, USA [Click for map]

Who: I. G. Safonov (IGSafonov)

No specimen available

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Rhopalogaster transversarium
By: Larissa Trierveiler Pereira (lt_pereira)
2012-10-27 22:22:39 MDT (-0600)

very beautiful species!!!!!!

Evolutionary Dead End
By: I. G. Safonov (IGSafonov)
2012-10-27 21:51:19 MDT (-0600)

Daniel and Danny — thanks for a very enlightening discussion regarding hypogeous/epigeous fungi of today and from time immemorial. I hope I didn’t misquote Roy Halling, but even if I did, perhaps those who read your comments learned something intesting because of that.

Now, regarding the “evolutionary dead end”. If my memory serves me right, during his lecture at NEMF almost three months ago Roy pointed out the DNA connection existing between contemporary boletes and some gasteroid fungi. With representatives from the genus Gastroboletus lying morphologically somewhere in between, it’s easy to see the logical transition from the former to the latter (at least on the surface). I guess Roy’s point was that it’s hard to imagine a rhizopogon or a scleroderma transforming back into a bolete or becoming something entirely different — hence “the dead end”. Ironically, looking at a typical earthball, an image of a highly evolved design isn’t something that readily comes to mind. Compared to both gilled and pored mushrooms, it looks rather primitive and archaic — it’s nothing more but a sack filled with a billion of spores!

RE: Danny
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-10-27 20:19:14 MDT (-0600)

I was trying to comment on the term “evolutionary dead end.”

Dr. Helen Gilkey, my botany professor at Oregon State University during her last year, had already suggested a progression of development in hypogeous fungi. But neither she nor anyone else I have talked to can tell whether the progression is from hypogeous to epigeous — or the other way around.

The oldest fungus I’m aware of came from Devonian Age siltstone in British Columbia, associated with club moss. The Devonian Age, some 400 million years ago, is also known as the “Age of Fishes”, as that was the major evolutionary advancement of the time. But plants were escaping their oceanic confines and transferring to the hostile dry landscape. The fungus in question is Glomites. It is very similar to the Glomus of today. It fruits as individual spores or groups of spores, associated with the roots of club moss. Glomites was hypogeous. It is presumed later fungi becoming epigeous, and possibly spread wind dispersal of spores was a later step.

Over the course of 400 million years, things could have gone underground and aboveground several times. Rhizopogon is certainly dependent upon small mammals which consume and spread the spores. Tuber is a similar case. But there is no fully-defined series of fossils in the fossil record relating to fungi today. Unless these early fungi were preserved by tree sap or fine-grained siltstone or mudstones. The fossils of early plants are relatively rare. The fossils of early plant roots are much rarer. Fossils of fungi associated with those plant roots nearly non-existent.

My point remains simply that no one knows whether epigeous fungi or hypogeous fungi came first – or last. There is very little fossil evidence to draw upon. Calling anything an “evolutionary dead end” is oversimplification IMO.

Micro of similar Obs 114632 added
By: Linas Kudzma (baravykas)
2012-10-27 12:34:33 MDT (-0600)
By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2012-10-27 12:06:26 MDT (-0600)

I think you’re misinterpreting Roy’s comment. If it was along the particular line of reasoning I suspect it was, the idea is that epigeous/gymnocarpous fungi only evolve “downward,” so to speak, to become hypogeous/angiocarpous/hemiangiocarpous, never the other way around, as far as we know. That’s not at all the same as saying they serve no ecological function in their environments once having taken that evolutionary step.

I found very likely the same in the NJ Pinelands last week.
By: Linas Kudzma (baravykas)
2012-10-27 11:18:32 MDT (-0600)

I have a dried specimen retained and will post pictures on MO with some micro later today. I was fascinated by this. It was above ground with the “club” fully out of pine duff. Pitch pine, scrub oak and blueberry plants were in the vicinity. Found on the trail on the other side of the road near Pakim pond, for the local NJ folks. Mr. Safonov, we really need to meet in person!

I would argue with Roy Hallings about that conclusion.
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-10-26 23:30:50 MDT (-0600)

Sequestrate fungi are not dead ends. They are merely different. In my area they are extremely common and quite often sought after by mycophagous animals: some 2-legged, some 4-legged, some even 100-legged. In New Zealand flightless birds like the Dodo probably ate some of the sequestrate fungi along with seeds of certain trees that are currently endangered because the dodo is long gone.

The relationships between fungi, plants and animsls is much more complex than is currently known. It may involve complete ecosystems.

When I found it…
By: I. G. Safonov (IGSafonov)
2012-10-26 19:58:54 MDT (-0600)

the basidiocarp was lying horizontally on the pine needles, while the stalk was buried under the duff. I effortlessly pulled it out for inspection and photographing. Later I found yet another solitary fruitbody at the same stage of development, which I didn’t touch, but I never encountered younger or older specimens. Yep, all these puffballs, earthballs, false earthstars and rhizopogons are in the order Boletales. I remember Roy Hallings saying something at the NEMF to the effect that these designs are evolutionary dead ends…

Apparently it can be hypogeous.
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-10-26 18:31:44 MDT (-0600)

Field Guide to North American Truffles notes it is found from NJ to FL and AL, also with coarse woody debris (large woody pieces, usually over 3 inches diameter). Your obs. does not show any indication of being buried though. Which is why I wondered about the term hypogeous.

I see this is a close relationship to the Boletaceae as well. Said to be rubbery in texture when young, but powdery at maturity. Have you found the mature stage? I wonder if it looks more like a puffball.

By: I. G. Safonov (IGSafonov)
2012-10-26 18:17:10 MDT (-0600)

I didn’t say it was hypogeous, wikipedia did. :-) But yes, it was completely exposed when I found it, lying above the needles and looking very benign and vulnerable.

And yes, it’s Pinus ridiga.

I’ve been seeing a lot digging activity in the needle duff thinking it was those darn Eastern Europeans plucking out leccinums and gypsies. :-) The idea of animals hunting truffles never entered my mind.

According to our FPP species list, we found the following rhizopogons: R. nigrescens, R. cf. parksii, and R. vulgaris.

I’d suggest Pitch Pine
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-10-26 17:47:38 MDT (-0600)

as possible mycorrhizal host. This is only important to the extent of finding it again, btw. Or trying to grow it.

You state this is hypogeous. Really? It looks more epigeous (above ground) to me. I can easily see how it might start growing hypogeously, though. Many mycorrhizal species do that. Pinus is an especially productive host for Rhizopogons in Oregon and (as you might suspect) in Idaho, where Alexander H. Smith collected much of his collections.

Just checked on-line, and pitch pine should be the same as Pinus rigida, right? At least, that’s what the Forest Service website says. Pinus is also a common host of Tuber. If you start to see lots of animal activity in the duff around a pine tree in your area, you might want to do a little excavating with a truffle rake.

Thanks for your comment,
By: I. G. Safonov (IGSafonov)
2012-10-26 17:15:17 MDT (-0600)

Daniel. I am actually surprised someone got interested in this modest-looking hypogeous basidiomycete.

Looking back at our FPP records (we have a small but dedicated group in NJMA which has been dillegently surveying this preserve in the NJ Pine Barrens since 2009), this unusual rhizopogon relative was collected once in 2010 and twice in 2011. So you are right — it’s quite rare even in habitats where one might expect to find it.

We don’t typically pay attention to tree species for the coastal plain by and large is dominated by the pitch pine, which has 3 needles, and a variety of “pygmy” oak species. The next time I see this mushroomn again, I will make a note of the habitat.

Do you remember
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-10-26 16:15:10 MDT (-0600)

what Pinus species these were found with?

Thanks for including bisected photos.
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2012-10-26 16:14:05 MDT (-0600)

This is so rarely seen, and even more rare in cross-section.