, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 1131-1144
Date: 16 Jan 2006

Last Chance to Know? Using Literature to Explore the Biogeography and Invasion Biology of the Death Cap Mushroom Amanita phalloides (Vaill. ex Fr. :Fr.) Link

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Abstract

The biogeography of fungi is poorly understood and a species in a novel location may be an introduction or an endemic newly identified within its native range. Using the literature of Amanita phalloides as a case study, we aim to illustrate both the limited utility of the historical record in establishing ectomycorrhizal (EM) species as introduced or invasive, and the difficulty of using modern records to establish a current biogeography. Amantia phalloides, the death cap mushroom, is deadly. It is a notorious fungus with a rich literature. Historical records can be used to explore the species’ distribution in North America, where the earliest publication on A. phalloides dates to 1834, and four different authors identified it as growing in California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Maryland before 1910. In contrast, by mid-century field guides listed A. phalloides as rare on the West Coast and absent from the East Coast. In modern literature A. phalloides is described as a recently introduced and currently invasive species. The contradictions raise two questions: First, is A. phalloides an exotic to North America, and second, can early records be used to delineate the native distribution of any other less infamous EM fungus? We argue that confusion on the introduced status and biogeography of A. phalloides, and perhaps other fungi, is the direct result of shifting species concepts. When publications include an explicit species concept they can be used to establish A. phalloides as an introduction, for example on the East Coast of North America and in Australia. When species concepts are vague the literature is not useful and cannot be used to determine A. phalloides as an introduction, for example on the West Coast of North America or in Asia.