Observation 45611: Hirsutella surinamensis (W. Voss) Speare

When: 2009-12-24

Collection location: Shayari, Cascales, Sucumbíos, Ecuador [Click for map]

Who: Danny Newman (myxomop)

Specimen available

Two specimens of this striking anamorph were encountered no more than 100 yards from each other, each fused to small trees at about 6’ off the ground, presumed to be of the same species. The first has much more of the wings intact and appears to be the less progressed of the two. Notice the tiny, seemingly-capitate protrusions along the synnemata of the older specimen.

Collected for the Amazon Mycorenewal Project near the Shayari Ecolodge.

Dried specimen obtainable with permission from la Universidad Central del Ecuador Fungorium.

Species Lists



Proposed Names

58% (1)
Eye3 Eyes3
Used references: Vosseler, J. “Ueber einige Insektenpilze.” Jahreshefte des Vereins für vaterländische Naturkunde in Württemberg. Bd. 58 (1902): 380-384. Print
Mains, E B. “Entomogenous Species of Akanthomyces, Hymenostilbe and Insecticola in North America.” Mycologia. 42.4 (1950): 566-589. Print.
Speare, A T. “On Certain Entomogenous Fungi.” Mycologia. 12.2 (1920): 62-76. Print.
Hsieh, L S, S S. Tzean, and W J. Wu. “The Genus Akanthomyces on Spiders from Taiwan.” Mycologia. 89.2 (1997): 319-324. Print.
Thaxter, R. “New species of Laboulbeniales from various localities.” Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 28 (1893): 156-188. Print
Vincent, Michael A, Keith A. Seifert, and Robert A. Samson. “Akanthomyces Johnsonii, a Saprophytic Synnematous Hyphomycete.” _Mycologia.?? 80.5 (1988): 685-688. Print.

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Update & New Photo
By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2013-07-26 10:13:41 CST (+0800)

the Ghana paper adds 5mm to the maximum synnema length of Akanthomyces pistillariiformis/Insecticola pistillariaeformis (6mm as opposed to 1mm), but is 2mm less than the max for A. aculeatus (8mm) as described in the same Mains paper form 1950; a taxon which should have been part of the discussion several comments ago, but somehow slipped my mind. These three are anywhere from verifiably (see previous comments) to very possibly synonymous with at least this many other taxa:

Akanthomyces sphingum
Hymenostilbe sphingum
Isaria sphingum
Isaria pistillariiformis
Isaria sphingophila
Torrubia sphingum
Cordyceps sphingum
Akrophytum tuberculatum
Cordyceps tuberculata

The differences in color between the pistillariiformis and sphingum-aculeatus anamorphs (exclusively white to cream in the former, yellowish in the latter), plus some minor discrepancies in conidia size and shape, may render that group as belonging to a separate species, but I suspect it’s all part of the grand variability of Cordyceps tuberculata; the most appropriate name for the group under the ‘One Fungus, One Name’ rule, especially since all of the above are listed, in one publication or another, as having C. tuberculata as their teleomorph.

Hirsutella surinamensis, then, stands alone in its extraordinarily long synnemata, unmistakable for any other described taxon I can find. If/when similar material can be borrowed for study or re-collected, perhaps this can be confirmed both under the microscope and molecularly. Then the question becomes, ’what’s the teleomorph?’

As a side note, the image from a few comments back was apparently part of a foldout which the archiver didn’t bother to unfold and photograph. Here is the full image, albeit in frustratingly low resolution:

Welcome Isaac
By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2011-11-18 15:12:05 CST (+0800)

and thank you for your valuable contribution to this observation (in record time, no less). Eacles penelope looks a lot like our poor chap here. As far as size goes, his(/her) wingspan was at least 18cm, if not more.

A night’s sleep has caused me to reign in some of the unbridled enthusiasm. Poking around google for ‘Akanthomyces moth’/‘moth fungus’/‘moth cordyceps’ brings up a handful of familiar images of things bearing varying degrees of resemblance to the specimen seen here (all subtly to strongly synnematous, all on adult moths, all some shade of white to yellow). I’ve packaged them into a tidy little .rar below with filenames denoting collection locations and names of the rights holders.

Seeing these in comparison with my observation has me stumped on a few fronts:

I mentioned Mains limiting synnemata size to 0.4-1.0mm in what we now know to be A. pistillariiformis. The gist I’ve gotten from the 5-10 papers I’ve been reading and re-reading indicate that all of the anamorphic, synnematous fungi on adult Lepidopteran hosts fall under that single name. If so, either

a: Mains’ parameters are wrong and the most current description of A. pistillariiformis corrects his oversight,

b: I’m interpreting what he means by synnemata incorrectly, or,

c: there exist multiple unique species which have yet to have been adequately described.

The middle of these three possibilities is best demonstrated in the picture entitled “Panama – artour_a.jpg.” Of these two markedly different kinds of protrusions (long spines vs. short-stipitate conidial balls), which are the synnemata??? In Mains’ 1950 article referenced in the last comment, he uses the same term to describe both! This isn’t the only entomo vocab term throwing me for a loop either (e.g.: clavae vs. stromata). A diagram to match them all to their corresponding parts would be a great help, if one exists.

The one publication that would cut through the majority of this rat’s nest of taxonomic chaos: Samson, R. and H.C. Evans. “Notes on entomogenous fungi from Ghana, II: The genus Akanthomyces.” Acta Botanica Neerlandica 23 (1974): 28-35, is apparently only located deep within in the confines of the Harvard Botanical Library stacks. It is within those pages that the modernday gospel was delivered on A. pistillariiformis and it’s teleomorph, Cordyceps tuberculata. That’s my next step.

It’s a shame that MO has yet to have been graced with the presence of a resident Cordyceps wizard to comb through the site’s inventory of entomopathogens. Harry Evans is on too high a floor in the CABI castle to see emails from mushroom serfs like myself. I’m holding out for a cameo from Joey Spatafora sometime before the rapture. In the meantime, we’ll see what Harvard does or doesn’t decide to cough up.

Host identity
By: Isaac Lichter marck (Hoba)
2011-11-17 23:54:23 CST (+0800)


Thanks for calling my attention to this really cool find.

The moth in these pictures is not an amphonyx sphinx or a hawkmoth at all. Its a silkmoth (saturniidae).

The fuzzyness of the specimen and the uncertainties with identifying amazonian lepidoptera notwithstanding, the moth resembles a female Eacles penelope, a widely distributed species known to occur in ecuador (note the brown line, not separating a light area from a dark one, mottled speckling, and the small circular window pane) . This is a relatively big moth, about 18. cm. How big was the moth in these pictures?

A good picture of eacles penelope can be found here: http://colombian.insects.pagesperso-orange.fr/...

The second specimen is in such a late stage of decay that we can only geuss that it was the male? the picture of this one is great- I made it my desktop background

Great work- great to hear from you again

Isaac Lichter Marck

mystery solved
By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2011-11-17 17:32:13 CST (+0800)

… sort of.

_Isaria surinamensis??. Good species, bad name.

Beginning with the false premise that all (or almost all) Akanthomyces were pathogenic on Lepidoptera, I pulled up a list of the genus’ accepted taxa on IF and MB earlier this evening. MB listed host substrates for a handful of taxa, with other publications filling in much of the remaining gaps (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(7). All told, the host associations in Akanthomyces look something like this:

A. angustospora (6)
A. coleopterorum (6)
A. brevipes (5)
A. furcatus (5)
A. hypogaeus (5)
A. lathrobii (5)
A. longissimus (5)

A. homoptera (6)

A. websteri (6)
A. ovalongatus (4)
A. novoguineensis (4)
A. longisporus (6)
A. koratensis (6)
A. cinereus (6)
A. arachnophilus (6)
A. aranearum (6)
A. novoguineensis (6)
A. ampullifer (4)

Crane Flies
A. ampullifer (6)

A. ampullifer (2)

A. gracilis (6) (3)

A. johnsonii (7)

This leaves A. aculeatus, A. pistilariformis and A. sphingum; the three spp. of Akanthomyces known to occur on Lepidoptera adults or larvae.

Mains discusses all three taxa in his 1950 Mycologia article (2), suggesting a rather complicated two-tiered synonmy between A. aculeatus, A. sphingum and Cordyceps tuberculata; the lattermost being the known teleomorph of A. pistillariaeformis. The sphingum epithet seems to have been haphazardly applied to both anamorphic and teleomorphic specimens, going under such names as Isaria sphingum, Torrubia sphingum, Hymenostilbe sphingum and Isaria sphingophila. It is Mains’ opinion — and a far more intricately reasoned one than I could attempt to duplicate here — that the anamorph is what he calls Insecticola pistillariaeformis (now Akanthomyces pistillariiformis) and the teleomorph is C. tuberculata. If Mains is right, that leaves A. pistillariaeformis as the only true, anamorphic, Lepidoptera-inhabiting Akanthomyces sp., which cannot be a match for this observation for a variety of reasons, namely the synnemata length of 0.4-1.0 mm.

It was Mains’ sudden mention of a then almost 50- (now 110-) year-old taxon, Isaria surinamensis, that immediately caught my attention:

Vosseler (25) describes I. surinamensis as having synnemata up to 12 cm. long with short side branches bearing conidia 2 μ in diameter.


Speare (18) has suggested that this species is a Hirsutella.

I. surinamensis was first described by Julius Vosseler in 1902(1). The host was Amphonyx cluentus, a species of hawkmoth, collected in the rainforests of Surinam (hence surinamensis). I’ve written a young man who accompanied us in Ecuador for part of the 2010 AMP service learning course, whose very purpose for being in the country was to study Amazonian Lepidoptera, so hopefully we’ll have an ID for the moth in this ob. sometime soon. In the meantime, short of his ID and a soon-to-come full translation of Vosseler’s original description of I. surinamensis (3.5 pages of non-OCR-readble German, for now posted as-is, untranslated, on the taxon’s name page), I believe that name (or Speare’s recombination of it as H. surinamensis) to be the strongest candidate yet. The synnemata length and host similarity alone are promising enough, further supported by what little likeness can be derived from Vosseler’s own 1902 photograph:

If our herbarium specimen still exists at Universidad Central, Quito, there’s a good chance that this could be redescribed comb. nov. as Akanthomyces surinamensis, if needed, depending on the contemporary understanding of the macro- and micromorphology of Akanthomyces vs. Hirsutella.

It bears mentioning that Speare’s appropriating of variously described taxa into Hirsutella wasn’t at all restricted to Vosseler’s I. surinamensis and I. gracilis. He illustrates the Hirsutelloid qualities of several other taxa as well, calling for all of them to be brought out of their random generic placements and into the Hirsutella fold given their collective adherence to the following criteria:

Fruiting bodies in the form of simple or branched, long, erect, slender and rigid, or short verruciform synnemata composed of more or less parallel septate hyphae. Sporophores simple, sessile or subsessile, subulate, the distal portion extremely long and attenuated and sharply set off from the swollen or inflated basal portion. Spores adjointed singly from the tips of the sporophores, fusoid, allantoid or cylindrical in form, hyaline, one- celled, their true shape obscured by a gelatinous substance which surrounds and renders them citriform in appearance. (3)

Another line of inquiry could then be how many taxa currently listed under Hirsutella also possess exceptionally long synnemata, though I get the feeling that if there were anything similar to I. surinamensis, either Mains or Speare would have said so in their respective articles.

The work it took to uncover all of this data strongly evidences the need for a centralized database of mycological literature, one even more comphrehensive than D.W. Minter’s CyberLiber, which most certainly served as an indispensable resource throughout this particular bout of investigation, but was without archives of some of the more esoteric journals in which Akanthomyces taxa were first described. I someday intend to construct that very thing, but that’s another topic for another time.

More to come.

(1)Vosseler, J. “Ueber einige Insektenpilze.” Jahreshefte des Vereins für vaterländische Naturkunde in Württemberg. Bd. 58 (1902): 380-384. Print

(2)Mains, E B. “Entomogenous Species of Akanthomyces, Hymenostilbe and Insecticola in North America.” Mycologia. 42.4 (1950): 566-589. Print.

(3)Speare, A T. “On Certain Entomogenous Fungi.” Mycologia. 12.2 (1920): 62-76. Print.

(4)Hsieh, L S, S S. Tzean, and W J. Wu. “The Genus Akanthomyces on Spiders from Taiwan.” Mycologia. 89.2 (1997): 319-324. Print.

(5)Thaxter, R. “New species of Laboulbeniales from various localities.” Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 28 (1893): 156-188. Print


(7)Vincent, Michael A, Keith A. Seifert, and Robert A. Samson. “Akanthomyces Johnsonii, a Saprophytic Synnematous Hyphomycete.” _Mycologia.?? 80.5 (1988): 685-688. Print.

ya know, I was looking for just the right costume for this year….
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2011-10-26 01:32:22 CST (+0800)

talk about scary.

look on the bright side
By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2011-10-26 01:24:29 CST (+0800)

it has an excellent Halloween costume… forever

nice fungi, but poor Mothra.
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2011-10-26 01:09:28 CST (+0800)
recently featured
By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2011-10-26 01:08:51 CST (+0800)

in Fungi Magazine.

By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2010-10-03 05:43:50 CST (+0800)

I’ve just come to discover that if this find is in fact Akanthomyces pistilariiformis, that would make it the anamorph of one Cordyceps tuberculata (http://www.fruit.affrc.go.jp/…tuberc.htm).

Thanks, Richard
By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2010-06-16 03:57:29 CST (+0800)

More are coming soon from Bolivia 2009. They’ve been in the queue the longest. I even got around to editing about 60% of them only to scrap all the edits following some Adobe Lightroom tutoring from a friend here in Portland.

This find piqued the interest of a private German organization whose name currently escapes me. One of the workshop participants made this collection known to them, at which time they (somewhat impatiently) requested a sample of the material. Lacking sufficient permission to transfer biological material out of the country and being generally unwilling to violate the Andean Protocol, that request went unfilled. It turns out that Akanthomycin is a valued antibiotic compound found in (and first discovered from) species of Akanthomyces.

Great pictures
By: Richard Sullivan (enchplant)
2010-05-19 19:08:44 CST (+0800)

This suite of observations is fantastic – well done!

Created: 2010-05-19 15:47:12 CST (+0800)
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