Field of Science

Canterbury Bells

Bellflowers or harebells are one of the classic plants associated with the English country garden. For today's post, I'll be covering the family of plants that bellflowers belong to.

Fairy's thimble Campanula cochleariifolia, copyright Jerzy Opioła.


The Campanulaceae are a family of over 2300 plant species found almost worldwide (Crowl et al. 2016). The family is, however, divided between five subfamilies that some authors would treat as separate families, in which case 'Campanulaceae' would be restricted to the 600 or so species of the subfamily Campanuloideae. It is this subfamily that includes the bellflowers. The vernacular name, of course, refers to the shape of the flowers produced by these plants, as indeed does the botanical name: Campanula translates as 'little bell'. These flowers are radiately symmetrical with all petals more or less the same size and shape and evenly arranged in a circle. Other subfamilies of the Campanulaceae in the broad sense, the largest of which is the lobelias of the Lobelioideae, produce more bilaterally symmetrical flowers with petals differing in size and/or with some petals closer together than others. Fruits are most commonly a capsule, with the seeds dispersed by wind, but some lobelioids produce fleshy fruits that attract birds. The lobelioids are most diverse in the southern continents, and it is thought that this may have been the original home of the family as a whole when it arose sometime close to the end of the Cretaceous, possibly in Africa. At some time in the early Cenozoic, however, the campanuloids arrived in and underwent a significant radiation in the Palaearctic. This dispersal may be related to the different flower morphology of the campanuloids, as they adapted from the bird, bat and butterfly pollinators of the tropics to the bee and fly pollinators of more temperate habitats.

Glandular threadplant Nemacladus glanduliferus var. orientalis, copyright Stan Shebs.


The genetics of Campanulaceae, specifically of their chloroplasts, should also not go unnoticed. The structure of the chloroplast genome in plants is usually very stable, with few changes in gene arrangement and order. However, at various points in the history of Campunulaceae, large chunks of foreign DNA have been inserted in the original plastid chromosome, with a number of these insertions also associated with inversions in the direction of adjoining sections of the original genes (Knox 2014). This kind of insertion is unique among flowering plants: changes in the gene content of plastids more usually involve genes being transferred out of the plastid. The source of this extra DNA is uncertain: it may have come from the plant's own nucleus, or it may have come from an as-yet-unknown endosymbiont. Also unknown is the functional significance of these rearrangements, if any. Some insertions have clearly resulted in pseudogenes, with their sequences rapidly breaking down through subsequent genetic drift. But others have preserved the structure of functional genes, suggesting continued selection for their retention.

Cyanea duvalliorum, an arborescent Hawaiian lobeliad, copyright Forest & Kim Starr.


The majority of Campanulaceae are small perennial herbs. Two genera of distinctive enough to be assigned to their own subfamilies include annual herbs: the threadplants Nemacladus of southwestern North America, and the little-known Chilean Atacama desert endemic Cyphocarpus. Some members of the Lobelioideae are woody subshrubs, and at some point one of these woody lobelioids managed to make its way to the Hawaiian archipelago where it gave rise to one of the world's most remarkable insular radiations, and the single largest such radiation in plants. Over 120 species of lobeliads are known from the Hawaiian islands, varying from single-stemmed succulents to straggling vines to trees over 18 metres in height. There are inhabitants of lowland forests, of upland bogs, and of rocky cliffs. There are species producing fruit as dry capsules; others produce fleshy berries. So varied are the Hawaiian lobeliads that previous authors have inferred their origin from multiple seperate colonisations, but a study by Givnish et al. (2009) supported a single origin from a single colonist arriving about thirteen million years ago. This would have been before any of the current major Hawaiian islands existed (the oldest, Kaua'i, is a little less than five million years old); the implication is that the ancestor of the Hawaiian lobeliad arrived on a pre-existing island, perhaps corresponding to the modern Gardner Pinnacles or French Frigate Shoals. As the lobeliads diversified, they continued to disperse onto new islands as they arrived, while their original homeland eroded away.

Sadly, a depressing percentage of the species forming this incredible radiation are now threatened with extinction, the victims of pressures such as loss of habitat, the decline of their pollinators and dispersers, or grazing by introduced mammals. The cliff-dwelling pua 'ala Brighamia rockii of Moloka'i is now restricted to five locations with an estimated total wild population of less than 200 individuals. A related species on Kaua'i, the olulu Brighamia insignis, may be extinct in the wild, having last been recorded in the form of a single individual in 2014 (it still survives in cultivation). As we earlier saw with the Hawaiian honeycreepers, there is barely a single section of the Hawaiian biota not marked by tragedy.

REFERENCES

Crowl, A. A., N. W. Miles, C. J. Visger, K. Hansen, T. Ayers, R. Haberle & N. Cellinese. 2016. A global perspective on Campanulaceae: biogeographic, genomic, and floral evolution. American Journal of Botany 103 (2): 233–245.

Givnish, T. J., K. C. Millam, A. R. Mast, T. B. Paterson, T. J. Theim, A. L. Hipp, J. M. Henss, J. F. Smith, K. R. Wood & K. J. Sytsma. 2009. Origin, adaptive radiation and diversification of the Hawaiian lobeliads (Asterales: Campanulaceae). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B—Biological Sciences 276: 407–416.

Knox, E. B. 2014. The dynamic history of plastid genomes in the Campanulaceae sensu lato is unique among angiosperms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 111 (30): 11097–11102.

Alvania

It's a general rule with organisms that species diversity increases as size decreases (at least down to about the millimetre range, below which things get a bit more complicated). That's certainly the case with molluscs, whose range clearly favours the tiny.

Alvania cimex, copyright Alboran Shells.


Alvania is a cosmopolitan genus of marine gastropods, found in most parts of the world except the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic (Ponder 1984). The average Alvania species is less than five millimetres in total length, and other members of the family they belong to, the Rissoidae, are similarly wee. The shell of Alvania species varies from elongate-conical to more squatly conical in shape, and generally has a sculpture of both axial and spiral ridges. In some species the axial and spiral ribs are both similarly prominent; in others, the spiral ridges are more strongly developed.

Rissoids may be found crawling on seaweed or sheltered amongst stones or other rubble. Alvania species seem to be more likely to be found in the latter habitat than the former. Alvania have a smaller mucous gland on the rear of the foot than species of Rissoa, a related genus that is more likely to be found on the weeds. The mucus produced by this gland assists rissoids in clinging to their substrate or the surface film, and its reduction in Alvania is presumably connected to their preference for the low life. Rissoids are grazers on microalgae or deposit feeders; those species found on seaweeds will feed on diatoms and the like growing over the seaweed rather than on the seaweed itself. Among European species, A. punctura is known to selectively pick out diatoms and dinoflagellates from among detritus when feeding whereas A. jeffreysi may be less discriminating in what it swallows.

Alvania subcalathus, copyright H. Zell.


The greater number of Alvania species are planktotrophic as larvae, and as described in some of my previous posts on turrids, their shells have protoconches to match. Nevertheless, the genus also includes some direct-developing species with fewer protoconch spirals. The Mediterranean species A. cimex and A. mammillata are almost indistinguishable when mature except by features of the shell apex, which is broader with fewer spirals to the protoconch in the latter (Verduin 1986). If A. mammillata is a direct developer while A. cimex has a planktotrophic larva, it would tally up with the situation elsewhere seen among turrids.

REFERENCES

Ponder, W. F. 1984. A review of the genera of the Rissoidae (Mollusca: Mesogastropoda: Rissoacea). Records of the Australian Museum Supplement 4: 1–221.

Verduin, A. 1986. Alvania cimex (L.) s.l. (Gastropoda, Prosobranchia), an aggregate species. Basteria 50: 25–32.

Niphargus

I've commented before on the unexpectedly high diversity of animal species that can be found living in groundwater. Because dispersal through this habitat is, unsurprisingly, often difficult and bodies of groundwater are often isolated from each other, many groundwater-adapted species can have almost ludicrously small ranges. Hence, for instance, the diversity of the amphipod genus Niphargus.

Niphargus hadzii, copyright B. Sket.


The genus Niphargus is found across Europe, mostly south of what was the lower edge of the northern ice sheet during the Pleistocene, though it is replaced by a closely related genus in the Iberian Peninsula. A few species are also found in south-west Asia. They are usually eyeless and colourless (the genus name means 'snowy white'). Though clearly adapted for subterranean environments, they may also be found in associated surface habitats such as springs or the upper sections of streams (Fišer et al. 2015). Species of Niphargus vary considerably in size: the smallest interstitial species may be only two or three millimetres in length whereas some cave-dwellers reach forty millimetres (Karaman & Ruffo 1986). They may feed on organic particles filtered from the water, or they may predate on smaller animals.

Over 300 species of Niphargus are currently recognised, making it one of the largest genera of freshwater amphipods. Even so, this number is likely to be a significant underestimate of the genus' true diversity. A number of studies on Niphargus have identified evidence of previously cryptic species. A study by Fišer et al. (2015) of two species from the Istrian Peninsula in the north-west Balkans found genetic evidence for the existence of two strongly divergent populations within each, with the two populations of 'N. krameri' being morphologically as well as genetically distinct. Flot et al. (2010) found evidence of four distinct lineages within 'N. ictus' of Italy's Frasassi caves, representing at least three independent colonisations of the cave system from external sources. At least two of these lineages are unique among amphipods in living in a symbiotic association with sulphide-oxidising bacteria of the genus Thiothrix, allowing them to survive in Frasassi's sulphide-rich waters.

Niphargus aquilex from the River Till, copyright Lee Knight.


With such a large genus, attempts have naturally been made to divide it into more manageable units. About a dozen species groups have been recognised on the basis of morphology, albeit some poorly defined. However, a molecular phylogenetic study of the genus by Fišer et al. (2008) identified none of these groups as monophyletic. Instead, they found a higher correlation of phylogeny with geography than morphology. The picture suggested is one of poor dispersers, re-evolving similar forms on multiple occasions as they diverge to exploit their secluded habitats as best they can.

REFERENCES

Fišer, C., B. Sket & P. Trontelj. 2008. A phylogenetic perspective on 160 years of troubled taxonomy of Niphargus (Crustacea: Amphipoda). Zoologica Scripta 37 (6): 665–680.

Fišer, Ž., F. Altermatt, V. Zakšek, T. Knapič & C. Fišer. 2015. Morphologically cryptic amphipod species are "ecological clones" at regional but not at local scale: a case study of four Niphargus species. PLoS One 10 (7): e0134384.

Flot, J.-F., G. Wörheide & S. Dattagupta. 2010. Unsuspected diversity of Niphargus amphipods in the chemoautotrophic cave ecosystem of Frasassi, central Italy. BMC Evolutionary Biology 10: 171.

Karaman, G. S., & S. Ruffo. 1986. Amphipoda: Niphargus-group (Niphargidae sensu Bousfield, 1982). In: Botosaneanu, L. (ed.) Stygofauna Mundi: A Faunistic, Distributional, and Ecological Synthesis of the World Fauna inhabiting Subterranean Waters (including the Marine Interstitial) pp. 514–534. E. J. Brill/Dr W. Backhuys: Leiden.

Wasps that don't Give to a Fig

The strategies employed by flowering plants to draw in their pollinators are many and varied. Some have entered into exclusive partnerships, contriving methods by which their rewards are shared with a single animal species and hence presumably increasing the likelihood of that species visiting them. Once remarkable example of such a partnership is found among the figs. To the casual observer, fig trees might appear to never produce flowers. However, immature figs are in fact closed inflorescences called syconia with the flowers produced on the inside of the fig, never exposed to the outside world. The only way for pollinators to reach the fig flowers is through a tiny hole or ostiole at the fig's apex. This ostiole is used by the fig's pollinators, tiny female wasps of the chalcidoid family Agaonidae, who enter the fig in search of places to lay their eggs. The wasp herself does not leave the fig again after laying but her eggs and larvae develop within galls inside the fig, feeding on the tissue of the fig itself. After developing into wingless males and winged females, the next generation of fig wasps mates within the syconium; pollination of the fig tree occurs through the young females leaving the fig to find their own laying places and carrying pollen as they do so.

Female Idarnes nr flavicollis, a typical late-laying sycophagine, copyright Sergio Jansen Gonzalez.


The fig benefits by having an exclusive pollinator, the fig wasp benefits by having a ready-made nursery for its offspring. However, all that tasty fig tissue is bound to prove attractive to others who would circumvent the standard contract. Another group of chalcidoid wasps, the subfamily Sycophaginae, includes prime examples of such freeloaders. Like the true pollinating fig wasps, these non-pollinating fig wasps develop in galls within fig syconia. However, instead of entering the fig through the ostiole, most sycophagines use their ovipositor to pierce the fig's outer skin and lay from outside. In some sycophagines, the ovipositor is relatively short and thick; these species lay their eggs when the fig is only just beginning to develop. In others, the ovipositor is longer and slender, longer in fact than the rest of the wasp, and oviposition happens later when the fig has grown to a larger size. In some of these later-arriving forms, the ovipositing female lays into a gall already induced by the fig's actual pollinator (how she finds it from outside the fig, I have no idea), and as well as feeding on the gall, her larva will eventually feed on the pollinator larva. There are also some sycophagines that enter the syconium through the ostiole and oviposit internally; I haven't been able to find whether these species may function as true pollinators.

Female Sycophaga ovipositing on Ficus sur, copyright JMK.


As noted above, pollinating agaonids exhibit strong sexual dimorphism with only the females having wings, and males never escaping the host syconium. The wingless males cannot be easily recognised as belonging to the same species as the females; indeed, if one does not already know what they are, they can barely even be recognised as wasps. In sycophagines, matters are a bit more complicated. In some species, males are wingless and highly modified as in pollinating fig wasps. In others, males are winged and similar in appearance to females. And in still others, wingless and winged males are both present within a single species. I don't know what determines whether a given larva of these species develops wings or not; both forms may develop within the same syconium. It has been suggested that the presence of the two forms is related to conflicting pressures of gene flow vs speed. Winged males that can look for mates outside the parent syconium have a better chance of finding mates outside the pool of their own siblings, thus avoiding the risk of inbreeding. However, wingless males can mate with females immediately after they emerge within the syconium (if not before, as I'll explain shortly), in which case the winged males may simply find themselves too late to the party. Certainly there is a correlation between winglessness and the size of broods. Early-ovipositing species, which tend to produce smaller broods because the younger host syconium offers less space for egg-laying, are more likely to have winged males whereas males of later-ovipositing species are more likely to be wingless (Cruaud et al. 2011).

Male Apocryptophagus, copyright Centre for Biodiversity Genomics.


Males of the genera Sycophaga and Apocryptophagus (which Cruaud et al., 2011, suggested should probably be synonymised) are invariably wingless and have elongate, flattened, extensible gasters. The terminal pair of spiracles on the abdomen have the surrounding peritremes (supporting rings) extended into a pair of long filaments. In the host figs of these genera, the interior of the syconium becomes filled with liquid after being pollinated by its associated agaonids; the liquid is resorbed when the pollinators emerge. Nevertheless, there are advantages for the sycophagines in emerging before the pollinators: not only could the interior of the syconium become rather crowded, males of some agaonid species have enlarged mandibles that they may use to dispatch any interlopers. So instead of waiting for the syconial fluid to drain away, the male Sycophaga cuts a small opening slit in his gall (too narrow for the surrounding fluid to seep in) through which he partially emerges into the central cavity. The peritremal filaments are used to anchor the end of his gaster within his original gall so that he can continue to breathe from the air-pocket inside it while he stretches out in search of another gall containing a female. When he finds one, he will cut into it in the same way that he cut out of his own, then release the end of his gaster from its anchor-point and quickly slip into the gall of his intended. After a brief mating, he can repeat the process, this time using the female's gall as his air-tank (Ramírez 1996–1997). The female presumably emerges once the syconial fluid is gone.

Male Apocryptophagus emerging from a gall containing a female, from Ramírez (1996–1997).


There have been various viewpoints about the relationships of Sycophaginae to other chalcidoids. Some authors have included almost all the fig-associated wasps in the Agaonidae, whether pollinators or not. Others have restricted the Agaonidae to the true pollinators and classified non-pollinating fig wasps such as the Sycophaginae with the poorly defined family Pteromalidae. An analysis of chalcidoid relationships by Heraty et al. (2013) identified Sycophaginae as a sister group to Agaonidae sensu stricto (while placing other groups of non-pollinating fig wasps elsewhere on the tree). This might lead one to consider the possibility that the gall-making habit seen in both Sycophaginae and pollinating Agaonidae pre-dates the evolution of the wasp-fig relationship as pollinators. Perhaps the evolution of the syconium allowed figs to convert gall-makers that had previously been parasites into partners.

REFERENCES

Cruaud, A., R. Jabbour-Zahab, G. Genson, F. Kjellberg, N. Kobmoo, S. van Noort, Yang D.-R., Peng Y.-Q., R. Ubaidillah, P. E. Hanson, O. Santos-Mattos, F. H. A. Farache, R. A. S. Pereira, C. Kerdelhué & J.-Y. Rasplus. 2011. Phylogeny and evolution of life-history strategies in the Sycophaginae non-pollinating fig wasps (Hymenoptera, Chalcidoidea). BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 178.

Ramírez, W. 1996–1997. Breathing adaptations of males in fig gall flowers (Hymenoptera: Agaonidae). Revista de Biologia Tropical 44 (3)–45 (1): 277–282.

Neostrinatina mixoppia

Dorsum of Neostrinatina mixoppia, from Mahunka (1978).


Time for another oribatid. This is Neostrinatina mixoppia, a species described as the only member of its genus by S. Mahunka in 1978. It was described on the basis of two specimens from near Coban in the highlands of Guatemala. Neostrinatina belongs to the family Oppiidae, a group of often smaller oribatids with moniliform legs, and is a bit over a quarter of a millimetre in length. N. mixoppia noticeably differs from other oppiids in its long pectinate sensillus on either side of the prodorsum. The other dorsal setae are also particularly long and barbed. Other distinctive features of this species, according to Mahunka, are a pair of lateral teeth on the dorsosejugal suture (the junction between the prodorsum and the notogaster, or what one might think of as the 'head' and 'body' regions of the dorsum) that jut towards the sensilli, and an 'enormous, spiniform excrescence' projecting forwards from the anogenital region. I must admit, though, I've been trying to interpret Mahunka's illustration of the ventral region of N. mixoppia and I'm still not entirely sure what this latter feature looks like. Like other oppiids, the prodorsum does not have the projecting lamellae found in many oribatid families; instead, N. mixoppia has a pair of branching costulae (thickened ridges). The legs each end in a single claw.

Venter of Neostrinatina mixoppia, from Mahunka (1978).


Oppiids are currently recognised as the most diverse family of oribatids with over 1000 known species, the greater number of these found in the tropics. Though the ecology of N. mixoppia itself is unknown, other oppiids feed on fungi. The single claws on the legs suggest a terrestrial habitat. As with many (if not most) oribatid groups, the relationships of oppiids are in great need of revision with many genera being arranged on the basis of potentially convergent characters. Mahunka himself recognised this in his description of N. mixoppia, expressing the opinion that it represented '? mixture of at least three present day " genera"'. The number of dorsal setae suggested one genus, the dorsosejugal teeth suggested another. Perhaps one day we'll know which is which.

REFERENCE

Mahunka, S. 1978. Neue und interessante Milben aus dem Genfer Museum XXV. On some oribatids collected by Dr. P. Strinati in Guatemala (Acari: Oribatida). Acarologia 20 (3): 133–142.

Pond Turtles of Asia

In an earlier post on this site, I discussed some members of the tortoise family Testudinidae. In popular depictions, the terrestrial tortoises are commonly associated with arid deserts and Mediterranean climes, where rains are sparse and water bodies few. But tortoises are exceptional in this regard among the order Testudines, members of which are more generally aquatic. As an example, consider the closest relatives of the Testudinidae, the pond turtles of the Geoemydidae.

Southern river terrapin Batagur affinis, copyright Eng Heng Chan.


Members of the Geoemydidae (historically referred to in many publications as the Bataguridae) are commonly referred to as the Asiatic pond turtles and it is in southern and eastern Asia that they are most diverse. However, they are also found in Europe and northern Africa, and a single genus Rhinoclemmys is found in northern South America. About 65 or 70 species are recognised in the family, making them quite diverse as turtles go. Many geoemydids are colorfully patterned and some can reach reasonably large sizes. The northern river terrapin Batagur baska, for instance, may grow up to two feet in length and close to twenty kilograms in weight.

Black-breasted leaf turtle Geoemyda spengleri, copyright Heather Paul.


A phylogenetic analysis of the Geoemydidae by Hirayama in 1984 lead to the suggested division of the geoemydids between two subfamilies, the Geoemydinae and Batagurinae. The two subfamilies were primarily distinguished by the extent of development of the secondary palate and hence the width of their jaws, with the Batagurinae having a more extensive secondary palate and broader jaws than the Geoemydinae. Batagurines were also generally more aquatic and more herbivorous than the semi-terrestrial, more omnivorous geoemydines. Hirayama also suggested that the geoemydines might be paraphyletic to the Testudinidae (Spinks et al. 2004). More recent phylogenetic analyses have supported geoemydid monophyly, placing them as sister rather than ancestral to Testudinidae (Spinks et al. 2004; Guillon et al. 2012). They have also supported a clade including the majority of Hirayama's batagurines, excluding only the genus Siebenrockiella. However, Hirayama's geoemydines have not been supported as monophyletic; instead, the Neotropical Rhinoclemmys represents the sister group of the Old World geoemydids. This is not entirely surprising; comparison with other turtle families indicates that the narrow-jawed 'geoemydine' condition is primitive among turtles. As a result, the Batagurinae is no longer recognised as a distinct subfamily.

Golden coin turtle Cuora trifasciata, copyright Torsten Blanck.


Unfortunately, the Asian species of pond turtle are currently facing a conservational crisis. The majority of species are regarded as endangered, many critically so, due to threats such as habitat loss and hunting for food. Some species, most notably the golden coin turtle Cuora trifasciata, are targeted for use in Chinese medicine because why wouldn't they be? Many geoemydid species have been bred in captivity but this is also not without issues. In the case of the golden coin turtle, there is the all-too-common issue that even when farmed individuals are available they are not seen as being as valuable as wild-caught specimens. Also, because the gender of hatchlings is determined by incubation temperature, farmed clutches are skewed almost entirely towards females, requiring the continued harvesting of wild males. Many geoemydid species hybridise readily. During the period from 1984 to 1997, no less than thirteen new species of geoemydid were described from China, most on the basis of specimens purchased from a single pet dealer in Hong Kong (Parham et al. 2001). Many of these specimens were of uncertain origin. Searches for further specimens in reported localities for some species failed to provide results, and queries to local residents revealed that they had never seen such turtles. At least some of these supposed new species have since been identified as hybrids, probably produced in captivity, and the status of others remains questionable.

REFERENCES

Guillon, J.-M., L. Guéry, V. Hulin & M. Girondot. 2012. A large phylogeny of turtles (Testudines) using molecular data. Contributions to Zoology 81 (3): 147–158.

Parham, J. F., W. B. Simison, K. H. Kozak, C. R. Feldman & H. Shi. 2001. New Chinese turtles: endangered or invalid? A reassessment of two species using mitochondrial DNA, allozyme electrophoresis and known-locality specimens. Animal Conservation 4: 357–367.

Spinks, P. Q., H. B. Shaffer, J. B. Iverson & W. P. McCord. 2004. Phylogenetic hypotheses for the turtle family Geoemydidae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32: 164–182.

Mystery Fungus

For this week's semi-random taxon, I drew the fungal genus Trichangium. Unfortunately, there's not much I can say about this one. The single species of this genus, Trichangium vinosum was described by German mycologist Wilhelm Kirchstein in 1935 in a volume of the journal Annales Mycologici to which I don't have access (there are other volumes of this journal available at archive.org but seemingly not this one). The original collection was found growing on bark of a pear tree. Since then, Kirchstein's species seems to have gone largely unrecognised. I could find no further records under this name and recent synopses of ascomycete genera (e.g. Lumbsch & Huhndorf 2010) list it incertae sedis in the order Helotiales. Helotiales are mostly minute fungi with cup-shaped fruiting bodies that most commonly grow as saprobes on organic substrates such as fallen logs or humus.

Fruiting body of Unguiculella robergei, copyright Abel Flahaut.


However, in 1962 the British mycologist Richard Dennis noted that Kirchstein's description of Trichangium vinosum bore a close resemblance to another bark-living fungus, Unguiculella robergei, and suggested that the two might be the same species. Unguiculella robergei is itself a very rare fungus, otherwise only known from a handful of records in France and Scotland, seemingly all in the month of April (see MycoDB). It has been recorded from bark and dead twigs of mistletoe and roses, producing dark red, disk- or cup-shaped fruiting bodies less than a millimetre in diameter. These fruiting bodies are covered with small glassy hairs; the hooked shape of these hairs was presumably the inspiration for the genus name meaning a small claw or nail. It is possible, of course, that this fungus is more common than realised: with something this small, you need to be looking for it.

REFERENCE

Dennis, R. W. G. 1962. New or interesting British Helotiales. Kew Bulletin 16 (2): 317–327.

Lumbsch, H. T., & S. M. Huhndorf. 2010. Myconet volume 14. Part One. Outline of Ascomycota—2009. Part Two. Notes on ascomycete systematics. Nos 4751–5113. Fieldiana: Life and Earth Sciences, N.S. 1: 1–64.