The International Institute for Species Exploration has named its top new species discovered in 2010, and an Oregon mushroom, Psathyrella aquatica, is on the list. Aquatica is the first species of mushroom with gills that scientists have observed fruiting underwater.
Robert Coffan, an Adjunct Professor of water resources at Southern Oregon University, found the mushroom in 2005 while wading in the Rogue River on a visit with his family. Biologists at Southern Oregon University studied the mushroom and decided last year that it is a genetically unique species that grows in river gravels and on submerged logs, and wasn’t accidentally washed into the river.
Coffan says several things make the discovery of this new species particularly exciting. Coffan wants to know how the species he discovered reproduces, given that gilled mushrooms usually reproduce using spores that travel through the air. And he says it raises the question of whether other species of gilled mushroom could be found in streams.
The mushroom has only been found in two locations on the upper Rogue River, about 1500 feet apart. Coffan is reluctant to say exactly where he’s found the species until more populations have been identified.
Here’s a BBC slideshow on the mushroom and the other new species highlighted by the IISE today.