Death by Fungus?Submitted by Bob-45 on Sun, 01/13/2013 - 06:21
In Nature this month there is an essay about natural catastrophes that might overtake us. One of these focuses on the threat posed by local fungus populations:
Although viruses and bacteria grab more attention, fungi are the planet’s biggest killers. Of all the pathogens being tracked, fungi have caused more than 70% of the recorded global and regional extinctions, and now threaten amphibians, bats and bees. The Irish potato famine in the 1840s showed just how devastating such pathogens can be. Phytophthora infestans (an organism similar to and often grouped with fungi) wiped out as much as three-quarters of the potato crop in Ireland and led to the death of one million people.
Researchers estimate that there are 1.5-5 million species of fungi in the world, but only 100,000 have been identified. Reports of new types of fungal infection in plants and animals have risen nearly tenfold since 1995.