Nav: Home

Plants cheat too: A new species of fungus-parasitizing orchid

November 03, 2016

Plants usually produce their own nutrients by using sun energy, but not all of them! A new 'cheater' species of orchid from Japan, lives off nutrients obtained via a special kind of symbiosis with fungi. The study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

The new orchid species, named Lecanorchis tabugawaensis, is by far not on its own in its strange feeding habits. The so called mycoheterotrophic plants are found among all plant species groups.

Mycoheterotrophy is a term derived from Greek to describe the bizarre symbiotic relationship between some plants and fungi, where the plant gets nutrients parasitizing upon fungi, rather than using photosynthesis.

Considered a kind of a cheating relationship, these plants are sometimes informally referred to as "mycorrhizal cheaters".

Having long attracted the curiosity of botanists and mycologists, a common feature of most mycoheterotrophic plants is their extreme scarcity and small size. In addition, most species are hiding in the dark understory of forests, only discoverable during the flowering and fruiting period when aboveground organs appear through the leaf litter.

Despite it seems like these 'cheating' plants have it all easy for themselves, in reality they a are highly dependent on the activities of both the fungi and the trees that sustain them. Such a strong dependency makes this fascinating plant group particularly sensitive to environmental destruction.

"Due to the sensitivity of mycoheterotrophic plants it has long been suggested that their species richness provides a useful indicator of the overall floral diversity of forest habitats. A detailed record of the distribution of these vulnerable plants therefore provides crucial data for the conservation of primary forests." explains leading author Dr Kenji Suetsugu, Kobe University.

Just discovered, the new orchid species has been already assessed with an IUCN status - Critically Endangered. With a distribution restricted to only two locations along the Tabu and Onna Rivers, Yakushima Island, this fungus-eating cheater might need some conservation attention.
-end-
Original Source:

Suetsugu K, Fukunaga H (2016) Lecanorchis tabugawaensis (Orchidaceae, Vanilloideae), a new mycoheterotrophic plant from Yakushima Island, Japan. PhytoKeys 73: 125-135. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.73.10019

Pensoft Publishers

Related Fungi Articles:

The two faces of rot fungi
Yogurt, beer, bread and specialties such as tasty blue cheeses or good wine -- special microorganisms and refining processes first produce the pleasant flavors and enticing aromas of many foodstuffs.
Growth mechanism of fungi decoded
Fungi grow with tubular cells extending by kilometers. Growth takes place exclusively at the tip.
Fungi awake bacteria from their slumber
When a soil dries out, this has a negative impact on the activity of soil bacteria.
Why communication is vital -- even among plants and fungi
A plant protein vital to chemical signalling between plants and fungi has been discovered, revealing more about the communication processes underlying symbiosis.
Biosynthetic secrets: How fungi make bioactive compounds
Biological engineers at Utah State University have successfully decoded and reprogrammed the biosynthetic machinery that produces a variety of natural compounds found in fungi.
Intestinal fungi worsen alcoholic liver disease
Liver cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of mortality worldwide and approximately half of those deaths are due to alcohol abuse.
Fungi have enormous potential for new antibiotics
Fungi are a potential goldmine for the production of pharmaceuticals.
Novel virus breaks barriers between incompatible fungi
Scientists have identified a virus that can weaken the ability of a fungus to avoid pairing with other incompatible fungi, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.
How soil bacteria and fungi drive plant diversity
Two new studies shed light on how the composition of biota in soil drives plant diversity.
Underwater mushrooms: Curious lake fungi under every turned over stone
It is well known that fungi are essential in cycling carbon and nutrients, but aquatic fungi living in freshwater and marine ecosystems remain relatively unstudied.

Related Fungi Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".