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rDNA ITS based identification of Eukaryotes and their communication via DOIs
UNITE Sequencing Initiative Update: Empowering Citizen Scientists and Advancing Mycology

Seven years ago, we opened up a free sequencing service for fungal specimens and living cultures, targeting species which were missing from the UNITE database and specimens originating from geographical regions and habitats not well covered by UNITE. Our initiative was designed to support mostly Citizen Scientists who often collect important and rare species, which are rarely sequenced. These species are of great importance in expanding our understanding of fungi and building identification keys to serve the scientific community.

Today, we are pleased to give an update on the progress of this initiative and share its significant contributions to the UNITE database.

Over the course of these seven years, 37 Citizen Scientists have submitted specimens to sequencing, with the specimen count per individual submitter ranging between 1 and 1 315. Out of the total 2 099 specimens submitted, 1 815 were successfully sequenced for rDNA ITS.

These contributions have introduced over 800 distinct taxa to the UNITE database, many of which are new to science. Furthermore, over 10 type specimens were deposited in the TUF fungarium as a result of this initiative.

Map displaying the collection localities for specimens submitted for sequencing.

TUF105944 | UDB0799866 Agaricus hortusdamarum. Licence: CC BY-NC. Rights Owner: Amalia Ferretti. Creator: Amalia Ferretti

An example of a newly described species sequenced during this effort is Agaricus hortusdamarum (Index Fungorum). It was discovered in a local park in Rome, Italy, in 2020 -

"The mushroom was spotted growing on a bed of pine needles and grass under the shade of Mediterranean cypress trees in an area known as Parco dei Daini, "Fallow Deer Park," within the Villa Borghese Gardens—the most popular urban park in Rome.“

(from a blog post by Allie Nicodemo)

The ITS sequence (UDB0799866) of the collected specimen forms a new UNITE species hypothesis on 1.0% distance threshold (SH1914985.09FU) and is closely related to species hypothesis of Agaricus iranicus (SH1215017.09FU).

We continue to encourage you to submit your valuable new material for sequencing at TUF fungarium. If you are interested in this service, please contact us to request further details (Irja Saar;   irja.saar@ut.ee).