Two new species of fungi identified in retreating Arctic glacier

Washington: Two new species of fungi have made an appearance in a rapidly melting glacier on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic.

A collaborative team of researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research, along with The Graduate University for Advance Studies in Tokyo, Japan, and Laval University in Quebec, Canada made the discovery.

The results were published in two separate papers, one for each new species, in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

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Speaking about it, Masaharu Tsuji said that the knowledge of fungi inhabiting the Arctic is still fragmentary. Tsuji is a project researcher at the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan and the first author in both papers. “We found two new fungal species in the same investigation on Ellesmere Island,” he added.

Of the two identified, one species is the 10th to join the genus Mrakia, with the proposed name M. hoshinonis, in honour of Tamotsu Hoshino, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology in Japan.

The other species is the 12th to join the genus Vishniacozyma, with the proposed name V. ellesmerensis as a nod to the island where it was found.

Both species are types of yeast that are well-adapted to the cold and can even grow below 0°C.
The fungi samples were collected from the Walker Glacier and at the time of sample collection in2016, measurements showed that the glacier was receding at a rate two-and-a-half times faster than its retreat over the previous 50 years.

Experts say that only about five per cent of fungi species have been discovered, but their function across ecological climates is well understood — they decompose dead organic material, reintroducing nutrients from dead plant material back into the ecosystem.

If the glaciers melt, the fungi lose their habitat, which could have a huge effect throughout the ecosystem, according to Tsuji. However, more research is needed to understand exactly how the changing climate is influencing fungi beyond destroying their habitat.

Next, Tsuji and his team plan to survey the fungi in Ward Hunt Lake, the northern most lake in the world.


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