A team of scientists has discovered an unknown purple fungus that parasitizes trapdoor spiders in the Atlantic rainforests of Brazil. The microorganism belongs to the Cordyceps group, which infects invertebrates and dominates them to death. The discovery was made in November 2022 in the forests north of Rio de Janeiro, and a formal scientific description is required to confirm that it is a new species.
The Brazilian mycologist João Araújo, who made the discovery, took a close-up photo of the fungus wrapped around the body of a spider in its burrow. Araújo described the find as “really beautiful” and noted that it is one of the few purple Cordyceps.
The researcher explained that very little is known about this group of fungi, which has been very little studied and is rarely collected in the world, mainly in Thailand. The new species that attacks trapdoor spiders belongs to a megadiverse group of fungi, of which approximately 1% of its diversity is known. Araújo said that fundamental scientific work is needed to investigate new medical compounds or use them to protect crops against pests.
The scientists used the latest portable technology to sequence the genome of the new fungus in situ. The researchers believe they made other parasitic fungus discoveries during their expedition to document the area’s biodiversity, including a species that feeds on a harvesting spider and another that attacks dung beetles. Further testing will be needed to confirm these findings.
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