Coprinus comatus

Lindsay wrote today’s entry:

Thank you to Marianne aka marcella2@Flickr for submitting today’s photo (original image | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool)!

Since Daniel has already highlighted self-digestion previously on Botany Photo of the Day with respect to Coprinus comatus, I thought I would expand on the scandal caused by a little thing mycologists call autodeliquescence.

Coprinus was once thought to be one of the easiest mushroom genera to identify for its defining feature of self-digestion, until a graduate student at Duke University sequenced a gene in 1994. This placed former members of Coprinus into 4 different genera. Imagine the controversy at the Mycological Society of America meeting! The proposal to split up the genus was met with such outrage that it was not published until 8 years later. The majority of the species of Coprinus were subsequently reclassified in the genera Coprinellus, Coprinopsis, and Parasola. Coprinus and its former members still retain a superficial grouping, however, and are collectively referred to as coprinoid fungi. Consequently, the ring found on the stipe and the string-like strand of fibers inside the stem’s hollow cavity (not shown) are better identifiers of Coprinus than the deliquescing gills.

Botany resource link (added by Daniel): “Mushroom Poisoning : The Role of Careless Identifications“, recently published in the Botanical Electronic News. There is also additional discussion about this article on the UBC BG forums.

Coprinus comatus

13 responses to “Coprinus comatus”

  1. linda miller

    Eight years….I recently joined a Master Naturalist group here in Virginia and training to be certified. The world of science is so different from my world.

  2. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Lovely shape — reminds me of a fairy skirt, covered with a layer of lace.
    And there was a lovely little lilac-coloured striped mushroom that I stumbled across in the previous years’ pages, but can’t find it now.
    I often find these little mushrooms quite beautiful. Thanks.

  3. Maggie

    I first met shaggy manes in Alaska. Now I’m in Oregon, but they’re right outside my office building. I just have to get to them before someone else does! My husband and I made a detour on our way home last night just to pick them. Yummy!

  4. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    A comment building on the first post:
    That it took 8 years to publish the new findings, is not an example of “science”, but more a failure of science — i.e., when scientists are too closed-minded to accept evidence that refutes current beliefs or paradigms. But I suppose that’s human. And that fact that the reclassifications eventually were made is an example of how science progresses.

  5. C.Wick

    Wonderful to see a mushroom on the Photo of the Day again.
    One of my favorite munchable ones too.

  6. Island Jim

    So… the graduate student who finally brought the classification into the 20th century didn’t have a name. How odd.

  7. Christian from PDX

    Mary Ann, I wouldn’t be so hasty at claiming a “failure in science.” Though one gene separates one artificially created group into four different groups of organisms, that does not always mean that they should be split into separate genera. Taxonomic names are an artificial method of organizing and understanding how organisms relate to one another evolutionarily. It is not always so easy to combine older systematic nomenclature with newer phylogenetic evidence.

  8. Jonathan

    It so happens I wrote a blog review of this subject while in grad school! To read more about autodeliquesnce, check out the article in the Cornell Mushroom Blog (we have video!)

  9. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Christian, I get your point, but what I was actually commenting on was this part:
    “The proposal … was met with such outrage that it was not published until 8 years later” — particularly the “outrage” and the “not published” parts.
    In other words, I’m not commenting on the ultimate decision (i.e. I’m not arguing the botany, I’m not qualified to do that), but rather I’m commenting on the quality of the response to new information.

  10. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    P.S. — Christian, I see how you could take it that way, re-reading my earlier post. I didn’t express my intended point very well.

  11. elizabeth a airhart

    tis also known as the shaggy mane
    and after the comments above the lawyers wig
    is a jolly good name me thinks

  12. Kasey

    @Island Jim: John S Hopple Jr

  13. Lizzy Broderick

    O.M.G. today I ate one of these and they are DELICIOUS! Make sure that it is the right one BEFORE you eat it though…One bite of the WRONG thing could and will KILL YOU

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