In a study published in the Mycologia journal, researchers from the Basque Country, in collaboration with the Spanish Royal Botanic Garden and the Forestry Institute of Slovenia, have described two new species of Hydnum – colloquially known as Wood Hedgehog or Hedgehog mushroom. Mushrooms of the Hydnum genus are well known because many of them are edible.
“In the work we describe two new species: Hydnum ovoideisporum and Hydnum vesterholtii, which belong to a genus colloquially called ‘Hedgehog mushrooms’. Although many of the mushrooms of this genus are eaten in various parts of the world, paradoxically there are very few serious and recent works clarifying exactly how many species there are and how they are different”, explained Mr Ibai Olariaga Ibarguren, lead researcher of the study at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) to the Spanish-based SINC (The Scientific Information and News Service).
According to experts, the work of differentiation of this genus is highly complicated as the species look very similar to each other and have quite similar microscopic features. “This is one of the reasons why many authors believed there were only a few species of Hydnum with different variables”, the Basque scientist pointed out.
Nevertheless, the few molecular studies undertaken on these fungi point to very high genetic diversity. Mr Olariaga had been studying this genus on the Iberian Peninsula for years until discovering that there were two species that could be distinguished from the rest because they had ovoid spores – most species have rounded ones –, and that they also had a particular ecology.
“The molecular study we undertook in this research confirmed that the species I detected, using classical taxonomy based on morphology, corresponded to two genetically marked lines”, underlined the researcher.
Knowing the species being picked
The species of the Hydnum genus are picked – as they cannot be grown as a crop – from natural ecosystems in large quantities and none of their species are poisonous, one of the reasons why efforts have not been made to differentiate them.
However, very little is known about their distribution, their ecology and whether those species being picked are in danger of extinction or, on the contrary, are very common.
“These kinds of studies enable looking at these aspects in depth and, moreover, having precise data that could be of interest from an applied perspective, given that it is necessary to know, for example, if one or few species produce determined secondary metabolites, or molecules of industrial interest”, stated Mr Olariaga.
It is probable that mushroom pickers have eaten these two new species as Hydnum is phylogenetically related to Cantharellus and Clavulina, and all these have edible species. “It would be highly improbable that these two species described were not so”, concluded the expert.
Ibai Olariaga, Tine Grebenc, Isabel Salcedo, María P. Martín. “Two new species of Hydnum with ovoid basidiospores: H. ovoideisporum and H. Vesterholtii” Mycologia, 104(6):1443-55, December 2012. doi:10.3852/11-378,
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