Cordyceps-diversity in the Amazon Rain Forest is impressive. Down below Cordyceps and allies we found during the February 2013 MushRoaming Bolivia Tour.
All specimens, unless otherwise noted were found in Madidi National Park or close by around Rurrenabaque. They are all deposited in the National Herbarium of Bolivia, La Paz. Special thanks to Tatiana Sanjuan, Bogota for help with identification. All photos © Daniel Winkler
Close-up of the digested scarabaeid beetle.
Mature Cordyceps scarabaeicola with two stromata growing out of a scarabaeid beetle. Note how the two stromata are fused half way up.
Close-up of the fertile top of the stroma of Cordyceps scarabeicola. Several fertile cushions, in which perithecioid ascomata are immersed, are growing on top of the stroma.
The superficial to partially immersed perithecia give the fruiting body of C. scarabeicola a much more irregular appearance, which is more common in Cordyceps than in Ophiocordyceps species.
Cordyceps sp. close to C. takaomontana
In Mashaquipe we found one location so rich in Cordyceps it blew our minds. We called it "Cordyceps corner". There were about a dozen specimen of at least 5 genera. Most common was this Cordyceps that looks awfully like the East Asian Cordyceps takaomontana first described in Honshu, Japan. However, C. takaomontana was described to grow on coleopteran pupae and the host looks more like a larva.
The number of stromata growing from a leaf surface differed mightily from two to over ten. Interestingly at first, we could not see any insect hosts and were a bit perplexed. Then we realized all of them were leaf-insect sandwiches, the ham was a larva (see below).
Fruiting bodies growing out of both side of this "leaf sandwich".
The leaves were welded together by mycelium and a challenge to open. Inside we found insects that looked to be in the larval stage.
Close up of the ascoma showing the bright yellow tops of the perithecia.
Close up of very mature perithecia.
An already dried out specimen of Ophiocordyceps dipterigena. Seven teleomorphic stromata and one slender anamorphic conidiphore are growing from a fly (order Diptera, hence the species epithet) laying on its back.
The anamorph is also described as Hymenostilbe dipterigena. It was found in Mashaquipe, Madidi NP.
At first we thought, finally we found Ophiocordyceps amazonica. However the host insect does not fit the bill. O. amazonica is a parasite on Orthoptera, meaning locusts, grasshoppers & crickets.
The broken larvae with the typical marking of a cockroach (Blattodea sp.) according to Tatiana Sanjuan.
Here a close up of a Gibellula arachnophila, a Cordyceps anamorph we found in the cloud forest near Coroico. Gibellula arachnophila feeds on spiders. A spider is below that white mesh. Gibellula arachnophila produces conidiospores, cloned reproductive cells. Most conidiospores are dispersed already and one can see the conidiphores, the structure on which they grow. Found in Coroico, Yungas, Bolivia.
This could be Akanthomyces novoguineensis, another anamorph that likes to feed on spiders.
Ascomata of Cordyceps sphecocephala. The spots are the ostiole openings of the perithecia.
Cordyceps sphecocephala is specialized to parasitize wasps, hence its name, "spheco" is derived from attic Greek meaning wasp.
Looking for mushrooms at Wizard Mountain we were accompanied by Fonier and his sons Manuco and Patrick. The boys really got into it!
They found a bunch of Cordyceps, here Patrick looks at a Metacordyceps martialis he found with Larry’s lens, they got to keep in the end.
Note the red-eyed fly resting on the top.
Metacordyceps martialis growing on a larva of a Coleoptera beetle. Metacordyceps martialis clearly has a weakness for the juicy coleopteran larvae that never will get to experience how it feels to transform into a big, well protected rain forest beetle. Coleoptera is largest order in the animal kingdom with more than 350,000 described species. The name is derived from the Greek koleon (κολεον) meaning "sheath" and ptera (πτερα) meaning "wings". Aristotle already called beetles 'koleopteros' (κολεοπτερος) to refer to the front wings modified to protect the membranous hind wings (Coleoptera info from bugguide.net). Already in 2012 we found several of these attractive Metacordyceps martialis at Wizard mountain during Mushroaming Bolivia.
Close-up of the ascoma of Metacordyceps martialis. The fruiting body is still immature and the ascoma with the perithecia is not developed yet. The white top of the stroma is still differentiating. The lower part of the top shows ostioles, future openings through which spores will be released which are produced in the perithecia embedded in the ascoma.
Metacordyceps (Clavacipitaceae) as a genus is still not well established, Kegler et al. (2011) wrote in their paper on Metacordyceps: “Metacordyceps remains one of the most poorly understood”. However, “Anamorph genera Metarhizium and Pochonia were found to be associated only with Metacordyceps and demonstrated to be phylogenetically informative for the clade”.
Ophiocordyceps melolonthae is growing on a coleopteran beetle larva. Found in Coroico, Yungas, Bolivia
Bright yellow pigmented stroma of Ophiocordyceps melolonthae, the head being clearly distinguished, a clear separation of the ascoma, the fertile tissue with asci cells containing perithecia of the 'head' and lower sterile tissue of the stem.
Same fungus down in the Amazon Rain Forest
The same specimen of Ophiocordyceps nutans showing top and bottom of a Shield or Stink bug (Pentatomidae, Heteroptera)
Another specimen of Ophiocordyceps nutans. Interestingly one of the stroma is a teleomorph, the other the anamorph. In the past the anamorph would have a different species name than the teleomorph, but a new rule says it needs to be the same name, since it is the same organism, just using a different reproductive path.
The thicker ascoma in the back is the teleomorph. Within its perithecia, asci cells are located in which spores are sexually produced. In the front the anamorph, the asexual stroma of Hymenostilbe nutans.
Ophiocordyceps curculionium is specialized in attacking weevils. It is closely related to Ophiocordyceps australis, which attacks ants.
Ophiocordyceps evansii, closely related to O. australis. We find these ant Cordyceps most frequently. Also tiny, the bright red ascomata are easily spotted when scanning the forest floor and dead trunks hunting for Cordyceps.
Ophiocordyceps australis growing out of an ant with three tall immature stromata and a forth smaller immature branching off below a mature, pin-head shaped ascoma.
Close up of mature and immature stromata.
Ophiocordyceps tiputini sp. nov. with yellow ascomata and branched blackish stroma on Megaloptera larva. Tatiana Sanjuan provided the name for this unusual Cordyceps we found in Mashaquipe.
Unidentified Cordyceps on colopteran larva
Another Cordyceps we found in Mashaquipe's Cordyceps corner
A Cordyceps growing on a Colopteran larva, of which only a part was successfully unearthed.