Author Archives: Jürgen

New publication on NZ fossils

View overlooking Foulden Maar showing the now infilled crater and mining pit. Photo: J. Conran.

Next week, the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Adelaide is hosting the Australian launch of a new publication on of New Zealand’s best known (and controversial) fossil localities, co-authored by State Herbarium Research Affiliate Dr John Conran (The University of Adelaide).

D.E. Lee, U. Kaulfuss & J. Conran (2022). Fossil treasures of Foulden Maar: A window into Miocene Zealandia. (Otago University Press: Dunedin, NZ).

Foulden Maar in Otago, New Zealand, a now infilled former lake, is home to an amazing record of life on Earth and is a paleontological site of international significance. Formed by a violent one-off volcanic eruption 23 million years ago, it comprises tens of thousands of undisturbed annual layers that record the changing life and ecosystems in and around a small, deep volcanic crater lake that existed for more than 130,000 years at the very beginning of the Miocene. The site is unsurpassed in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fossils in Foulden Maar include abundant plant remains, represented by leaves (including two rare fossil orchids), fragile flowers with pollen (including the world’s only fossil Fuchsia), fruits, seeds, wood and bark, together with pollen grains, fern, moss and fungal spores and billions of diatoms.

Fossil leaves from Foulden Maar, one showing extensive insect damage. Photo: J. Conran.

Animal fossils from the freshwater lake and surrounding rainforest abound and include the oldest known galaxiid (whitebait) fish on Earth, the first freshwater eel found in the Southern Hemisphere, sponges and myriad insects and spiders, virtually all new to science. Fish larvae still have their patterned skin, insects their eyes, antennae and wing patterns and some have retained their colour.

Ecological interactions are also captured: scale insects may be seen in life position on leaves, fish have the remains of their last meal in their stomach, and insect damage on plants is common. Evidence for waterbirds on the lake is seen in the abundance of fossilised sandy coprolites in the diatomite layers.

Most remarkable of all, Foulden Maar preserves a record of the climate fluctuations, year by year, through the life of the lake. Detailed analyses of core samples taken from the diatomite deposit have revealed temperatures, rainfall, global climate cycles (including ENSO cycles) and changing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in a world 23 million years ago.

This unparalleled archive of past life and climate shows that the mean annual temperature in the area was 8°C warmer than today – a marginally subtropical climate. The increased temperature was connected to higher CO2 levels of 450 parts per million (ppm) – approaching those that Earth will reach in the next few decades.

Example fossils from Foulden Maar: (A) A Fouldenia flower with preserved pollen; (B) Metrosideros (rātā) fruit; (C) galaxiid (whitebait) fish larva; (D) chrysomelid (leaf beetle) wing cases with colour still preserved; (E) a winged male Myrmecorhynchus ant. Photos: J. Conran & U Kaulfuss.

The authors are:

  • Daphne Lee (University of Otago), who has been a coordinator of the research team at Foulden Maar since 2003 and in 2017, Daphne received the McKay Hammer from the Geoscience Society of New Zealand, the premier award for geological research in New Zealand. She is currently an Honorary Associate Professor in the Geology Department.
  • Uwe Kaulfuss (University of Göttingen, Germany) completed his PhD focusing on the sedimentology and palaeontology of Foulden Maar and received the Harold Wellman Prize in 2009 for the discovery of fossil insects at Foulden Maar. Uwe continues to work on the biogeography and evolution of New Zealand fossil insects, funded by the German Research Foundation.
  • John Conran (The University of Adelaide) is a botanist and paleobotanist who joined the Foulden Maar research group in 2006. He has co-supervised several University of Otago and University of Adelaide Honours and postgraduate student projects on aspects of the Foulden Maar biota and is still working on the flora and palaeoecology of the site.
  • The foreword was written by Paul Selden, palaeontologist and arachnologist and Gulf-Hedberg Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas.

The book is available officially from the NZ distributors, Nationwide Books, as well as John Reed in Australia.

Compiled by Research Affiliate John Conran.

New Journal articles: Aug. 2022

The State Herbarium of South Australia published two articles online in its journal Swainsona today, 30 Aug. 2022.

Botanic Gardens Maintenance Worker Roy Haskett, Technical Assistant Ron Hill and Director Noel Lothian, summit of Mt Woodroffe, Musgrave Ranges, S.A. during collecting expedition, June 1958. Photo: BGSH.

(1) L. Haegi, Botany and science at Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens since the founding of the State Herbarium (4.5mb PDF)

This paper is published in Vol. 30 of Swainsona, the Special Issue to celebrate 60 years State Herbarium of South Australia. Hon. Research Associate Laurie Haegi presents a history of science and research at the Botanic Garden of South Australia in the areas of plant propagation, germination studies, plant diseases and plant pathology, identification of ornamental plants and seed banking. A focus of the article is the period from 1948, when Noel Lothian became Director of the Botanic Gardens, to today. The paper was the result of a presentation given during the Symposium celebrating the Herbarium’s birthday, which was part of the 2016 NRM Science Conference.

(2) M. Hislop & A.J.G. WIlson, A taxonomic update of Stenanthera (Ericaceae: Epacridoideae: Styphelieae), including description of a third species from Western Australia, an updated description of S. pungens and an Australia-wide key to species (0.5mb PDF)

Stenanthera lacsalaria, a new species from W.A. Illustration Hung Ky Nguyen.

The second article is published in Vol. 36 of Swainsona, the regular volume for this year. The authors review the epacrid genus Stenanthera, which occurs in W.A., S.A., N.S.W., Victoria and Tasmania. They publish a new species endemic to W.A., Stenanthera lacsalaria and provide an updated, more detailled description of S. pungens.

To access content of all volumes of Swainsona and the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens since Vol. 1 (1976), please visit the journal’s web-site at flora.sa.gov.au/swainsona or the Swainsona back-up site.

New journal articles: July 2022

The State Herbarium of South Australia published three articles in Vol. 36 of its journal Swainsona today, 22 July 2022.

(1) T.A. Hammer, Inadvertent lectotypifications of Australian Dillenia and Tetracera (Dilleniaceae) (100kb PDF).

In this Short Communication, Tim Hammer (State Herbarium of South Australia & The University of Adelaide) clarifies the types for two species of Dilleniaceae: Dillenia alata (R.Br. ex DC.) Banks ex Martelli and Tetracera daemeliana F.Muell. In both cases, a lectotype was chosen inadvernetly by R.D. Hoogland, i.e. he did not explicitely designated the type specimens in his publications as lectotypes, but according to Art 9.10 of the International code of nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) his listing of a “type” specimen is interpreted as lectotypification.

Tye specimen of the new species Quintinia macrophylla.

(2) O.K. Paul & J. Kellermann, A new species of Quintinia (Paracryphiaceae) and an overview of the genus for New Guinea (3.2mb PDF).

Botanist Oliver Paul from the Papua New Guinea National Herbarium and State Herbarium of South Australia staff member Jürgen Kellermann publish an overview of the enigmatic tropical genus Quintinia for New Guinea, lectotypify several names and also describe a new species, Q. macrophylla. Over the years, the genus has been assigned to several different plants families: Saxifragaceae, Escalloniaceae, Grossulariaceae or to its own family Quintiniaceae. Molecular data now place it into Paracryphiaceae. Quintinia species are small to medium-sized shrubs or trees, growing from lowland rainforests to high montane moss forests. A world-checklist of Quintinia is also appended to the paper: The genus is most species-rich in New Guinea (13 spp.), but is also distributed in New Caledonia & Vanuatu (6 spp.; see Pillon & Hequet 2019), Australia (4 spp.), New Zealand (1 sp.) and Mindanao (Philippines) & Sulawesi (Indonesia) (1 sp.).

(3) T.A. Hammer, Two new cremnophilous Hibbertia (Dilleniaceae) species from the Northern Territory (2.2mb PDF).

The author describes to species of Hibbertia, which are mainly occurring in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory. Both species have been known as phrase name taxa for several years: The new species Hibbertia pendula was known as Hibbertia sp. South Magela and H. scopulicola was known as Hibbertia sp. Mount Howship. Both taxa grow in sandstone gorges, hanging from fissures in cliff faces.

The new species Hibbertia scopulicola growing on a cliff face in a gorge in the Wellington Range. Photo: D.E. Murfet.

To access content of all volumes of Swainsona and the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens since Vol. 1 (1976), please visit the journal’s web-site at flora.sa.gov.au/swainsona or the Swainsona back-up site.

Lepiota brunneoincarnata – another exotic toxic mushroom in South Australia

Lepiota brunneoincarnata. Collection of the mushroom involved in a dog poisoning case. Scale divisions: 1 mm. Photo: P.S. Catcheside.

For some time, Lepiota brunneoincarnata is known to occur in South Australia and a similar species, Lepiota cristataoccurs in parts of New Zealand. The State Herbarium of South Australia has now published a new fact-sheet on this poisonous fungus (500kb PDF).

At the State Herbarium of South Australia, we have collections of Lepiota from at least 6 poisoning cases, some human and some dogs, over the last 5-8 years. While microscopy was done at the time of each case, the condition of samples when we receive them can be problematic. In the last few months we have extracted DNA and confirmed the identity of 3 of the past cases as L. brunneoincarnata, based on analyses of internal transcribed spacer (ITS) DNA region data. The next step is to complete tests for amatoxin concentration, to determine how much is a deadly dose.

Lepiota brunneoincarnata. Fungus involved in a human poisoning case, showing the typical white gills, purplish-brown fibrils on the cap, and the skirt on the stem with a purplish-brown rim and purplish-brown fibrils in patches below the skirt. Photo: T. Lebel.

Amatoxin poisoning upon ingestion of species of Lepiota may have a deadly outcome, but is not seen as often as it is from the genus Amanita. Amatoxins inhibit nuclear RNA polymerase II, and this inhibition results in impaired protein synthesis and cell death. Because the liver is an organ in which protein synthesis and cell turnover are high, it suffers the most distinct damage in amatoxin poisoning. The damage appears to be directly proportional to the dose of toxin ingested (i.e. more eaten, more damage). Amatoxins are contained in some Amanita, Galerina and Lepiota species. In Australia and New Zealand, Amanita phalloides (death cap) is known to have a high concentration of amatoxins, and to have been the cause of over 10 deaths in the last 15 years (a far lower rate than occurs in many overseas countries). Some Lepiota species (L. brunneoincarnata, L. brunneolilacina, L. helveola, L, josserandii, L. spiculata, L. venenata) are also known to be very toxic.

These exotic fungi are found in urban areas, mulched gardens or lawns. Don’t make the mistake that just because you have put mushroom compost in your garden beds, that edible Agaricus field mushrooms are the only ones that will grow!

State Herbarium fact-sheets are also available on the poisonous fungi Amanita phalloides (death cap) (700kb PDF) and Agaricus xanthodermus (yellow stainer) (650kb PDF).

Some fungi that have been confused with Lepiota brunneoincarnata in the past: Chlorophyllum brunneum (left), Leucoagaricus leucothites (middle) and Agaricus sp. (right). Photos: T. Lebel & K. Syme.

Written by State Herbarium mycologist Teresa Lebel
and Hon. Research Associate Pam Catcheside.

New journal articles: May 2022

Today, 20 May 2022, the State Herbarium of South Australia published four research papers in Vol. 36 of its journal Swainsona online.

Seed pods (fruits) of the new species Swainsona picta (W.A.). Photo: J. Hruban & M. Hrubanová.

(1) R.W. Davis & T.A. Hammer, Swainsona picta (Fabaceae), a new species from the Yalgoo bioregion, Western Australia (0.7 mb PDF).

The authors describe a new species of Swainsona with a particularly striking fruit. It only occurs near and on the Karara mining tenancy in the Yalgoo bioregion of Western Australia and is most closely related to S. oroboides.

(2) J. Kellermann, C. Clowes & S.J.A. Bell, A review of the Spyridium eriocephalum complex (Rhamnaceae: Pomaderreae) (7.5 mb PDF).

This and the next two papers present some of the taxonomic consequences of the recently published first comprehensive phylogeny of the genus Spyridium by Melbourne University PhD student Cat Clowes and collaborators (Clowes et al., Australian Systematic Botany 35: 95-119, 2022).

The authors revise the well-known widespread Spyridium eriocephalum and related species. The Kangaroo Island endemic var. glabrisepalum is raised to specific rank, and two new species are published: Spyridium latifolium from the Fleurieu Peninsula (S.A.) and S. undulifolium from the Goulburn River area (N.S.W.). Another taxon from New South Wales is given a phrase name, as it is only known by 3 specimens and has not been collected for 40 years: Spyridium sp. Dingo Creek (T. Tame 1011).

Spyridium eriocephalum, growing near the type location in Hobart (Tas.). Photo: M. Wapstra.

(3) J. Kellermann, C. Clowes & W.R. Barker, Spyridium bracteatum, a new species from Kangaroo Island allied to S. thymifolium (Rhamnaceae: Pomaderreae) (2.9 mb PDF).

The authors publish a new species from Kangaroo Island, known for over 30 years, but as yet unnamed. It has in the past been confused with S. thymifolium (which is also described and illustrated in the paper) and other species.

Inflorescence of Spyridium thymifolium from Fleurieu Peninsula (S.A.). Photo: J. Kellermann.

(4) J. Kellermann & C. Clowes, Spyridium longicor, a new species from Western Australia (Rhamnaceae: Pomaderreae) (2.7 mb PDF).

A new Western Australian species is described that was so far, known under the phrase name Spyridium sp. Jerdacuttup. It occurs from near Gairdner and Jerramungup townships, in Fitzgerald River National Park and eastwards to Bandalup Hill, Cheadanup Nature Reserve, Wittenoom Hills and with easternmost populations near Condingup.

To access content of all volumes of Swainsona and the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens since Vol. 1 (1976), please visit the journal’s web-site at flora.sa.gov.au/swainsona or the Swainsona back-up site.