Mesophellia glauca is one of the most commonly recorded truffle species in Australia. It has been recorded from every state and territory, except Northern Territory and in New Zealand where it is associated with Eucalytus plantations. It can be very locally abundant. Therefore, I propose it be assessed as Least Concern nationally. Certain subpopulations may have more pressing threats than others (South Australian and Western Australian) due to larger areas of land clearing and loss of mammalian dispersers.
Most early collections of Mesophellia sp. were recorded as Mesophellia glauca or Mesophellia arenaria, and then a revision by Trappe et al. (1996) accepted 12 species, 8 of which were new. This reference provides a key that distinguishes M. glauca from the other species. In their remarks they state that “Mesophellia glauca is the most widely distributed, highly variable and misidentified species of the genus. It is distinctive in its combination of ellipsoid spores 8-12(-14) p,m long that are greyish yellow to olivaceous grey in mass, the robust trabeculae that firmly attach the glebal core to the endocutis and the thin endocutis. In some collections, the spores rarely exceed 10 pm in length, and in others the cells of the peridium are only slightly or not inflated.”
This species was originally called Diploderma glaucum by Cooke and Massee 1886 and renamed to Mesophellia by Reid in 1963 (Castellano and Trappe 1992). Mesophellia glauca is similar to Malajczukia ingratissima and over mature specimens of the latter species can be mistaken for M. glauca. However, Ma. ingratissima is distinguished by having a tubular gleba with thin-walled hyphae in a soft core, embedded in nests and inflated cells. M. glauca in contrast, has a rubbery core of interwoven hyphae with gelatinous-thickened walls (Trappe et al. 1992, 1996).
Many studies have recorded Mesophellia spp. in the scats of mycophagous mammals, however M. glauca cannot be distinguished from other Mesophellia (e.g. M. pachythrix) by spores alone (Claridge and May 1994).
Out of all of the Mesophellia spp. described, M. glauca is the most commonly observed species. It occurs all over Australia and it has been well studied (compared to other truffle species in Australia) with regards to its dispersal ecology and host associations. Mesophellia spp. are endemic to Australia and are genetically distinct from global Hysterangiales (Hosaka et al. 2008). This fungus has been recorded in seven States and Territories and has over 200 records.
Due to its interdependencies in dispersal by mammals and ectomycorrhizal association the threats to its populations can be well characterised. Consequently, this species can be assessed as Least Concern but monitoring of fragmented populations should be done to watch for decline, particularly in areas with high rates of land clearing and have lost many mammalian dispersers.
Australia: Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia. New Zealand: North Island and South Island (associated with Eucalytus plantations).
There are 230 records for Mesophellia glauca in the Australian Living Atlas (ALA). After removing duplicates in date, collector and locality, these records reduce to 213.
References that include collections:
East Gippsland (Victoria): (Claridge et al. 2000a, 2000b, 2001)
Additional references that include collections that are not recorded in ALA:
New England Tablelands (New South Wales): (O’Malley 2012)
Epping Forest (Tasmania): (Taylor 1992)
Colebrook (Tasmania): (Johnson 1994)
Davies Creek and Lamb range (Queensland): (Abell-Davis 2008), Nuske unpubl.
Mesophellia glauca has very early records from late 1880’s to very recent records (2019). Records are scattered and collections are not even across Australia therefore it is hard to infer trends for all known populations. I have divided the known collections and references to this species into each Australian state and location (if appropriate) and sorted by collection date to infer population stability.
Queensland, Davies Creek: stable, collections from 1978 (Cribb), 1992 (Trappe), 2006-2008 (Abell-Davis 2008) and 2014-2015 (Nuske unpubl.). This location is one of the populations of the Endangered specialist mycophagist, Bettongia tropica and a diverse array of other mycophagous mammals that disperse this species (Nuske et al. 2018).
New South Wales, north-east, New England Tablelands: unable to infer stability from records (collections only from A. O’Malley’s PhD work in 2006), but probably stable because The New England Tablelands contain a large continuous area that is National Park with a diverse range of mammals that could maintain its dispersal.
Australian Capital Territory, Namadgi National Park and Uriarra State Forest: unable to infer stability from records. Collections only made in 1995 by Trappe, Lebel and Claridge. This area of National Park is quite large, so probably stable.
New South Wales, south-east (various locations): probably stable, collections from 1995-2000 by various collectors. Threats to these populations would be on-going forestry of native Eucalyptus forest, habitat clearing and loss of mammalian dispersers.
Victoria, east of Melbourne: stable, collections from early 1960’s to 2013 with 128 records. There is a large forested area and a number of National Parks in the eastern part of the state. Two specialist mycophagous mammals (Potorous tridactylus and P. longipes) still exist in this area that are probably the main dispersers of M. glauca and other truffles (Nuske et al. 2017), although the eastern bettong (Bettongia gaimardi) is extinct from this area.
Victoria, west of Melbourne: unknown stability but probable historical population declines. The western part of Victoria is largely cleared for agriculture with few fragmented forest patches. There are only 4 collections west of Melbourne from 1964 (Lower Glenelg National Park), 1983 (Grampians National Park) and two from Surf Coast, 1976 and 2015.
South Australia, Deep Creek Conservation Park and Cleland Conservation Park: unable to infer stability from records as the only collections are from 1994. Cleland Conservation Park is on the outskirts of Adelaide urban area and is surrounded by clearing for agriculture therefore is probably isolated. Deep Creek Conservation Park is a larger area than Cleland but is fragmented and surrounded by agricultural clearing and exists on a peninsula. Therefore, M. glauca populations are probably isolated here too. Loss of mammalian dispersers in these fragmented habitats would also lower their genetic diversity and gene flow. In conclusion, the South Australian M. glauca populations are probably in decline.
Western Australia, south-west (various locations): unknown stability but probably declining. There are 7 collections from 1979-2009 in 5 locations. Of the locations that M. glauca was collected more than once, only one was in different years (at Manjimup in 1979 and 1983 and another by P. Christensen with no date but did his studies there in the 1970’s). The National Parks and State Forests around this location are large but many are fragmented. There has also been extensive and well documented declines in the mycophagous mammals in this region. The two specialist mycophagous mammals are now Critically Endangered. These are the Gilbert’s Potoroo, Potorous gilbertii, and Woylie, Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi. These species were most probably the main dispersers for truffle-like fungi in this region (Nuske et al. 2017) and now exist in remnant, fragmented populations. B. penicillata ogilbyi used to be very wide spread across Australia and now exists in ~1% of its former range (“Advice to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee on Amendment to the list of Threatened Subspecies under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999” 2008, Zosky et al. 2017). Potorous gilbertii used to be widespread throughout the south-west of WA (Bougher and Friend 2009) but now only exists in isolated populations at Two Peoples Bay and nearby islands. Additionally, Jarrah forest, which is the habitat for this species, is heavily impacted by forest dieback caused by Phytophthora sp. This pathogen causes mortality in trees and can adversely affect the abundance and diversity of ectomycorrhizal fungi in affected forests (Anderson et al. 2010).
All members of Mesophelliaceae are thought to be ectomycorrhizal and incorporate ectomycorrhizae in their peridium (Beaton and Weste 1984). Within eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSA, the potential host species and associated tree species are Acacia dealbata, Eucalyptus cypellocarpa, E. dalrympleana, E. muelleriana, E. oliqua, E. radiata and E. sieberi (Jumpponen et al. 2004). Due to the wide distribution of this species, its host range is predicted to be large.
All Mesophellia sp. require animals for dispersal, mainly mammals. The mammals break open the crusty outer layers to reach a sterile edible core. In doing so the powdery spores are dispersed via either ingestion by the animal, carried on the outside of the animal or dispersed via wind or soil movement. The inner sterile core of Mesophellia sp. are of nutritional value to animals (Claridge and Cork 1994) and M. glauca has comparable available nitrogen and proteins to other truffle species (Wallis et al. 2012). Mesophellia glauca DNA sequences were recorded in high relative abundance in Bettongia tropica scats in the Lamb Range, north Queensland (Nuske et al. 2019) and were also present in generalist mycophagous mammals scats, associated with roots of trees and shrubs and soil sampled at the same locations (Nuske 2017).
Mesophellia glauca is encountered in a wide variety of climatically different Eucalyptus forests including wet sclerophyll, dry forest and heathy woodland (Abell-Davis et al. 2012, O’Malley 2012). Analyses of associations with habitat characteristics show no distinct trends (Claridge et al. 2009).
Mesophellia glauca can be locally very abundant. In A. O’Malley’s PhD work around the New England Tablelands in Northern NSW (O’Malley 2012), M. glauca was one of the more common species encountered and one of three species that was present at over 10 study plots. Across 136 study sites that were sampled multiple times, Mesophellia glauca was recorded in over 10 % of these in both autumn and spring (Claridge et al. 2000b).
There were early speculations that the fruiting of Mesophellia glauca and other Mesophellia spp. was related to recent fire, however these hypotheses have since been disputed (Claridge 1992, Trappe et al. 2005).
Habitat clearing and loss of hosts would be one of the major threats to this ectomycorrhizal species. Australia has experienced a very high rate of habitat clearing (Bradshaw 2012, Evans 2016, Kanowski 2017), including areas where M. glauca has been found. Australia also has a very high rate of mammalian decline and extinction (Short and Smith 1994, Geyle et al. 2018). Mycophagous mammals are essential for Mesophellia spp. dispersal. This loss of mammalian dispersers most probably have exacerbated population declines of M. glauca in some parts of Australia (south-west Western Australia, for example).
There are currently no conservation actions for M. glauca. South Australia and Western Australian populations are probably declining and would need conservation action.
- The stability of the South Australian and Western Australian populations
- Identification of Mesophellia sp. collections in herbaria (note: there are 111 records of on the Australian Living Atlas recorded as Mesophellia sp.)
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