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A new and unusual species of Hericium (Basidiomycota: Russulales, Hericiaceae) from the Dja Biosphere Reserve, Cameroon

Abstract

Tropical rainforests form the most species-rich biome on the earth. The Dja Biosphere Reserve (DBR) in Cameroon is a biodiverse tropical forest characterized in part by upland monodominant stands of the ectomycorrhizal (ECM) Gilbertiodendron dewevrei and ECM Uapaca spp. scattered along river banks. This mostly primary Guineo-Congolian evergreen forest harbors natural populations of large megafauna and numerous plant and fungal species. Studies have indicated that some ECM fungal groups of the large order Russulales are abundant in certain localities in the tropics, including the DBR. However, currently, other predominantly wood-decaying families of Russulales are poorly represented in Africa. For example, only three records of the saprotrophic genus Hericium (Russulales, Hericiaceae) are known from the African continent. Here, we describe a new species of Hericium recently collected from the DBR. Morphological characteristics and molecular phylogenetic analyses support placement of the Cameroonian collection in Hericium and its recognition as a new species within a larger H. coralloides species complex. The new species, H. bembedjaense, differs from H. coralloides in its smaller basidiospores (2.6–3.0 × 1.7–2.2 μm compared to 3.5–5.0 × 2.8–4.2 μm) and longer basidia (up to 27.0 μm compared to 15.0 μm). It differs from all other described Hericium species in the production of pleurocystidia. This is the first species of Hericiaceae known from sub-Saharan lowland tropical evergreen forests. This study highlights the need to increase fungal sampling in species-rich tropical forests such as those of the Congo Basin.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Dr. Ngo Ngwe Florence, Head of The National Herbarium of Cameroon (Institute of Agricultural Research for Development, IRAD), for providing logistical assistance. The Conservator of the Dja Biosphere Reserve, Mr. Mengamenya Goue Achille, and his staff greatly assisted the fieldwork in the Dja. Logistical, herbarium, and laboratory assistance was provided by Olivier Sene, Eric Ngangsop, Emerson Jeesh, Kirk Rumple, and members of the Aime Lab. We also thank Karl-Henrik Larsson (Natural History Museum, University of Oslo) for providing us with specimen details for collection RD282. Field assistance in Cameroon was provided by Emerson Arehart, Alamane Gabriel (a.k.a. Sikiro), Aziem Jean Aime, Essambe Jean-Pierre (a.k.a. Papa Chef), and Mama Tutu. Research permits were granted by the Cameroon Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation (MINRESI) and Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF).

Funding

Funding for this work was made available by the National Science Foundation DEB-1556412 to MCA, and NSF DEB-1556338 to TWH.

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Correspondence to Blaise Jumbam.

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Jumbam, B., Haelewaters, D., Koch, R.A. et al. A new and unusual species of Hericium (Basidiomycota: Russulales, Hericiaceae) from the Dja Biosphere Reserve, Cameroon. Mycol Progress 18, 1253–1262 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11557-019-01530-1

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Keywords

  • Africa
  • rDNA systematics
  • Russulales
  • Taxonomy
  • Wood rot fungi