The Field Museum
The Field Museum

Scientists Identify New Edible Mushroom in Chicago

The Field Museum
The Field Museum

A sunny yellow edible mushroom has just joined the noble ranks of new species named for the Windy City. Writing in the journal Mycologia, fungus researchers say the Chicago chanterelle had been under our noses all along.

There’s a reason we missed it: fungus is kind of tricky. “Plants are there almost all the time,” lead researcher and Field Museum mycologist Patrick Leacock told mental_floss. Fungi are far more ephemeral. Some species pop up only once every five years, others once a year. They appear overnight and are gone just a few days later. “You have to be in the right place at the right time” to see them, Leacock said. To date, he and his colleagues have cataloged more than 1000 different fungi species across the Chicago area.

Leacock and his co-authors had seen yellow chanterelles there, too, but they had no reason to believe the mushrooms were special. There are chanterelles all over the place. Then researchers in other parts of the country began taking a closer look at the chanterelles in their backyards. They sequenced the fungi’s genomes and discovered that what had appeared to be one standard North American variety was actually a number of distinct species. One 2014 paper suggested that there might be as many as 100 unidentified types of chanterelles still out there.

The Chicago team decided to test their own wild specimens. During the summers from 2000 to 2014, they collected yellow chanterelles in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, noting the location in which each mushroom was found. They extracted DNA from 21 of their fresh specimens, 20 dried mushrooms, and one preserved piece, and sequenced each sample.

The Field Museum

 
Sure enough, the golden mushrooms nestled at the base of Illinois oak trees were a species all their own. Cantharellus chicagoensis looks a lot like its nearby cousins, but its flavor is more delicate and its aroma milder.

Want to find your own? You’ll likely have to wait until next summer, as C. chicagoensis is a summer variety. Head out of the city center and into the nearby forest preserves. Look for oak trees and check at the base.

Because this is Chicago we’re talking about, we had to ask: How would this new species fare on a slice of deep-dish pizza?

So-so, Leacock said: “It’s not the best use of it.” He recommends a nice omelet instead.

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Bizarre New Species of Crabs and a Giant Sea Cockroach Discovered in Waters Off Indonesia
One known species of isopod, or "giant sea cockroach"
One known species of isopod, or "giant sea cockroach"
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A crab with green googly eyes, another with "ears" resembling peanuts, and a species of giant sea cockroach are among the dozen new kinds of crustaceans discovered by scientists in the waters off Indonesia, Channel News Asia reports.

These finds are the result of a two-week expedition by Indonesian and Singaporean scientists with the South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition (SJADES 2018), which involved exploring deep waters in the Sunda Strait (the waterway separating the islands of Sumatra and Java in Southeast Asia) and the Indian Ocean. Using trawls, dredges, and other tools, researchers brought a huge variety of deep-sea life to the surface—some species for the very first time.

"The world down there is an alien world," Peter Ng, chief scientist of the expedition, told Channel News Asia. "You have waters that go down more than 2000 to 3000 meters [9800 feet], and we do not know … the animal life that's at the bottom."

The giant sea cockroach—technically a giant isopod, also nicknamed a Darth Vader isopod—is a new species in the genus Bathynomus, measuring almost a foot long and found more than 4000 feet deep. The isopods are occasionally seen on the ocean floor, where they scuttle around scavenging for dead fish and other animals. This marked the first time the genus has ever been recorded in Indonesia.

Another find is a spider crab nicknamed Big Ears, though it doesn't actually have ears—its peanut-shaped plates are used to protect the crab's eyes.

More than 800 species were collected during the expedition, accounting for 12,000 individual animals. Researchers say it will take up to two years to study all of them. In addition to the 12 species that are completely new to science, 40 were seen for the first time in Indonesia. Creatures that the scientists dubbed a chain-saw lobster, an ice cream cone worm, and a cock-eyed squid were among some of the rarer finds.

A "Chain-Saw Lobster"
Nicknamed the "Chain-Saw Lobster," this creature is a rare blind lobster, found only in the deep seas.

Researchers took to the giant sea cockroach quickly, with some of the crew members reportedly calling it “cute” and cradling it like a baby. Check out Channel News Asia Insider's video below for more insight into their creepy finds.

[h/t Channel News Asia]

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Scientists Name Just-Discovered Brazilian Cave Spider After Aragog from Harry Potter
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Multiple new species, from wasps to crabs, have been named after Harry Potter characters. Now, CNET reports that Brazilian scientists have given a newly identified cave spider the name Ochyrocera aragogue, after Hagrid's enormous pet spider Aragog. Keeping with a theme of literary inspiration, the researchers also chose classic names for six additional arachnids they discovered underground in northern Brazil. They published news of their finds on January 10 in the science journal ZooKeys.

A team from Brazilian biological research center Instituto Butantan, Sao Paulo, found the cave-dwelling spiders among 2000 adult specimens collected throughout five years of field research. All seven species belong to the genus Ochyrocera and reside underground in iron caves across Pará, a state in northern Brazil. (Pará is home to Carajás Mine, one of the world's largest iron ore mines.) Scientists say the region might contain even more spiders like them, though mining activities reduce the area's biodiversity.

Unlike the elephant-sized Aragog, who readers first met in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the newly discovered arachnids are all tiny, measuring less than an inch in total size. They're also distinct from many cave-loving critters in that they aren't all pale white and aren't missing any of their six eyes. The spiders are technically able to spend their entire lives in caves, but they've also been known to crawl towards the opening and even venture outside.

In addition to Ochyrocera aragogue, researchers were inspired to name some Brazilian cave spiders after creepy-crawly figures from fantasy works like George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, and H. P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu. Monikers included Ochyrocera laracna, after the spider Laracna who attacks Frodo and Sam in LOTR; Ochyrocera varys, after GoT's Lord Varys (a.k.a. The Spider), and Ochyrocera atlachnacha, in honor of the Lovecraftian spider god Atlach-Nacha.

Ochyrocera varys, a new cave spider discovered in Brazil named after the character Lord Varys from 'Game of Thrones'
Ochyrocera varys
Igor Cizauskas

Ochyrocera atlachnacha, a new spider discovered in Brazil named after the Spider God Atlach-Nacha from H. P. Lovecraft's works.
Ochyrocera atlachnacha
Igor Cizauskas

Since not all literary spiders are spooky, the scientists also paid homage to E.B. White's Charlotte's Web and David Kirk's children's series Little Miss Spider, dubbing two other newly discovered spiders Ochyrocera charlotte and Ochyrocera misspider, respectively.

Ochyrocera misspider, a new arachnid species discovered by cave areas in Floresta Nacional de Carajás, in Brazil.
Ochyrocera misspider
Courtesy of Igor Cizauskas

This isn't the first time a spider has been named after Hagrid's pet; in 2017, scientists from the University of Tehran dubbed a new species of wolf spider discovered in southeastern Iran Lycosa aragogi.

[h/t CNET]

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