Poronia reintroduced to Suffolk

Poronia reintroduced to Suffolk

Postby Neil » Wed Mar 30, 2011 11:58 pm

After many years absence, Poronia punctata has been rediscovered (we have 2 old historical records) in Suffolk. It was discovered in huge numbers (I estimate 1 in 4 dung piles) on neglected heathland where Exmoor ponies have been introduced as a management tool.
Naturally, the ponies could not have been wormed before being transported, and upon arrival, did their business and thank you very much.

Increasingly, ponies are being used more and more instead of sheep to restore very overgrown heathland, so if the RSPB or your local wildlife trust are doing the same in your county, now is the time to get out there and give the local dung a good going over.
To avoid wasting your time though, it's best you ask the warden where the horses came from and whether they had been wormed as the worming process (and even additives in supplementary food) can destroy the spores. Fertilised soil ain't good either !

Neil Mahler.
Neil
 

Re: Poronia reintroduced to Suffolk

Postby Neil » Sun May 22, 2011 11:45 pm

There has been an interesting developement - I collected material to present at the upcoming Suffolk Naturalists Society AGM. The dung had been kept in a fridge for 3 weeks and when laid out on a table at the AGM the fruit bodies began to sporulate. Arriving back home, I couldn't wait to examine the spores which seemed to be very big for such a tiny ostiole in the cap surface.

They measured (29)30-32 x 17-18µm. This was way too large for P.punctata, so I wondered about P.erici, but the fruit bodies were supposed to be smaller with barely a stalk showing and I wrongly assumed therefor the spores would be smaller - not larger. Furthermore, the only records (3) of P.erici were from rabbit dung, not horse dung.

I took my material to a recent BMS Ascomycete Workshop where it was confirmed to be P.erici and on a new host for Britain.

Now the hard work begins, I have to see if P.punctata is indeed present on the site, next I have to establish where the Exmoor pony's came from, then alert the original site owners to the possibility of a very rare fungus being present on their land. I had previously, erroneously, been told the horses came from the New Forest and when I paid a visit to RSPB Minsmere today, staff there told me the horses never came from the New Forest but from 2 other sources - one being a rare breeds farm, and the other I think, an animal sanctuary, but that I need to speak to the RSPB site warden who is away for a week.

This now raises the possibility that the horses may very well have been wormed before being transported to their present site, for there is no concrete evidence that worming does remove/destroy spores in the horses gut - just a logical assumption.
From here, we next have to wonder about the viability of the spores - has P.erici ALWAYS been present at this site ? The Ellis's (including Ted and a friend) recorded P.punctata from a site nearby on an unspecified date but possibly in the 60's. Did they assume wrongly their find was P.punctata ? When was the 1933 material on rabbit dung from Scolt Head, north Norfolk coast, correctly determined as P.erici ? And were the Ellis's aware of the existence of P.erici in Britain at the time ? (The 2nd and 3rd records of P.erici were not made until 2010)

Poronia spp. have previously been found on elephant, cattle, horse, donkey, kangaroo, wallaby, and rabbit dung, so is it safe to assume all herbivores can spread Poronia spores ? Sheep have grazed at this site before, but I have failed to find any record of Poronia fruiting bodies growing on sheep dung.

Many questions need to be answered.

Neil Mahler.
County Fungus Recorder for Suffolk.
Neil
 


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