June 18, 2009

New species of mushroom discovered

A new species of mushroom found on the African island of Sao Tome has been named after California Academy of Sciences curator of herpetology Robert Drewes.

The two-inch-long mushroom grows on wood and is shaped like a phallus, San Francisco State University Professor Dennis Desjardin and Brian Perry, the scientists who discovered the mushroom, said.

Phallus drewesii belongs to a group of mushrooms known as stinkhorns, which produce a foul, rotting meat odor. There are 28 other species of Phallus fungi worldwide, but scientists said the new species is notable for its small size, white net-like stem, and brown spore-covered head. It is also the only Phallus species to curve downward instead of upward.

The mushroom emerges from an egg and elongates over four hours, Desjardin said. Its odor attracts flies who consume the spores and disperse them throughout the forest.

Desjardin and Perry said they named the new species after Drewes as an acknowledgment of his inspiration and fortitude to initiate, coordinate and lead multiorganism biotic surveys on Sao Tome and Principe.

It's a wonderful honor and great fun to have this phallus-shaped fungus named after me, Drewes said. I have been immortalized in the scientific record.

The new mushroom will be described in the July/August issue of the journal Mycologia.