Panellus luxfilamentus v/s Panellus pusillus

I tried to follow the instructions to go to the “Taxon Page” for this - but couldn’t find that page, which supposedly submits questions like the following to curators… so sorry, I’m posting it here.

It is noted that Panellus luxfilamentus is reported in Australia in ALA with many occurrence records. At least SOME records are a reallocation of Panellus pusillus records to Panellus luxfilamentus.
I have found the 2014 paper which analysed that fungi in Malaysia were misidentified as Panellus pusillus, and the new name Panellus luxfilamentus was created to cover the MALAYSIAN species (plus some other Asian records).

But I can’t find anything on the web that says that there’s been any detailed examination of Panellus pusillus specimens in AUSTRALIA to confirm the identification of individual specimens and, specifically, to name them as P. luxfilamentus. The lack of detailed review of Australian specimens has been confirmed by an Australian mycologist. There are some comments on the web (landcareresearch.co.nz) that Panellus in New Zealand is “like, but not identical to” Panellus luxfilamentus. That is NEW ZEALAND, not AUSTRALIA.

I made an enquiry to ALA who responded that the majority of P. luxfilamentus records in Australia have come from Fungimap. Fungimap responded as follows:

“Some of the records in iNaturalist might be tagged as belonging to the Fungimap Australia project in iNaturalist, but the records themselves are iNaturalist records, identified by users of iNaturalist. What has happened is that someone has decided that the local species that we have been calling Panellus pusillus for a long time is not this species, but Panellus luxfilamentus. Once a few people make identifications like this on iNaturalist, it is hard to stop the new name propagating, and generally people like to use what seems to be the latest name.”

From the above example, it appears that there are no expert curators in iNaturalist properly vetting records. That is, people with a working background in the particular organism, or people who take GREAT care and make good research from published scientific material, rather than people doing mere picture matching. The help pages seem to say that a sighting is counted as “research grade” when a mere 2 out of 3 people confirm a name for a photo. But who are those people?

This seems to be a poor process resulting in many incorrectly identified records in iNaturalist. As iNaturalist records feed through to ALA, this is resulting in many incorrectly identified records in ALA. The overall result is misleading mapping of nature records and casts a doubt (in my mind) as to the accuracy and usefulness of iNaturalist and ALA.

I am aware of at least one case where a person submitted her record as P. pusillus. She passed away soon after. Subsequently, someone has re-named the record to P. luxfilamentus. This is just plain wrong as a process, particularly as there has been no proper study of Panellus in Australia to review the species names in Australia.
Kindly advise how the iNaturalist records have been identified as P. luxfilamentus as opposed to P. pusillus. I can understand where, when there is one photo identified as P. luxfilamentus, that subsequent people wrongly follow suit. But how is it that OLD records were also renamed?
Please advise what processes you have to properly ensure CORRECT identification.
Thankyou

Hi Irene, and welcome to the forum. I’ll try to address all of your concerns here and hopefully clarify a few things.

What you were looking for is the page for each species on iNaturalist itself (i.e. www.inaturalist.org), as opposed to the discussion forum (where we are now). Those pages in question would be here and here.

Whilst this is indeed correct, to my knowledge/from my experience (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the ALA does not add taxa to its database purely because iNaturalist records exist; that is to say, according to the ALA, P. luxfilamentus already existed as a valid species occurring in Australia, before any iNaturalist records existed.

To further explain this with a relevant example. I recently observed the South African tree species Rothmannia globosa having naturalised in bushland in Sydney. However, despite the ID being 100% correct, my record does not appear in the ALA: this is because the ALA does not currently have a taxon page for this species, as my record is the first of this species being naturalised in Australia. Thus, in the case of P. luxfilamentus, this species was considered by the ALA to exist in Australia before any of the iNaturalist records existed, otherwise a taxon page would not exist for it. Also, the ALA has a taxon page for P. pusillus as well, indicating that both species are treated as present in Australia by the ALA (whether or not this is correct, I cannot comment, but I’m just highlighting what the status quo is).

This is certainly not the case; the iNaturalist community includes many, many experts, both professional and amateur, from around the globe. This is also true from an Australian fungi perspective, with experts such as Tom May and Teresa Lebel who you would recognise, being identifiers on the platform. Keep in mind also that iNaturalist currently has records of almost 350,000 species! It is inevitable that there will be controversy/issues in some cases.

This is not quite true; a sighting actually becomes ‘research grade’ when more than two thirds of the identifiers on an observation agree; so if 2/3 agree on an ID, it will not be ‘research grade’. Research grade’ is largely an arbitrary label, and does not necessarily mean that the record is correctly identified, or that it will be used in research. All that it means is that more than two thirds of the identifiers on it agree.

As for ‘who are those people’, anyone is welcome to make identifications on iNaturalist. This includes amateur naturalists, world experts, and everyone in between. The great thing is that all records on iNaturalist are dynamic, and can have their IDs changed or corrected at any time whatsoever, no matter how old they are.

I would argue the opposite. The fact that iNaturalist identifications are based on a consensus system actually helps accuracy in my opinion. Think about how many museum specimens are sitting in drawers that were misidentified by a single person 50 years ago, and may sit there for another 50 before someone checks them and realises the ID was wrong. Here, you have a system that allows you to override incorrect identifications, and correct them at any time.

I just want to highlight here that both research grade and ‘needs ID’ records get sent through to the ALA, not just research grade. Also, if something is misidentified on iNaturalist, goes to the ALA, but is then corrected on iNaturalist, the ID will also update on the ALA.

I would also argue that there would be a considerable number of museum/herbarium records in the ALA that are misidentified, probably in greater numbers than iNaturalist records, because they are not publically accessible 24/7 to anyone in the world that can correct them.

Just to reiterate my point from earlier, the taxon page for P. luxfilamentus already existed on the ALA before any iNaturalist records ever existed, and thus according to the ALA, this species does occur in Australia. Without their taxon page, none of the iNaturalist records would have come across.

This is not something I can answer, as I have very little knowledge of fungi, and none for this genus, but the best approach would be to go to some of the observations (which are here), and ask the users why they made that identification. Looking at those observations, I see many experienced naturalists, including ones who are good with fungi, so they obviously have their reasons. Indeed, I see many users that have uploaded observations of both species, so to me that seems like some decision process is being applied.

Repeating my point from above, iNaturalist records are dynamic, and can be re-identified or corrected at any time.

Will all the above in mind, you are more than welcome to go to the current observations of P. luxfilamentus on iNaturalist, and add your own ID of either Panellus or P. pusillus, along with an explanation of why you think the species is not present in Australia.

Please let me know if any of this is unclear, or if you want me to clarify anything.

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See for instance the comments here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/90751469

Thank you Jameskm. This is a good example of (in my opinion) an incorrect identification being applied. Your sighting is in Australia where this fungus is known as Panellus pusillus. There is NO scientific research confirming the existence of P. luxfilamentus in Australia. Per my comments above, the one in New Zealand is “like, but not identical to” Panellus luxfilamentus . That is NEW ZEALAND, not AUSTRALIA. We are different countries, with different habitats, different trees, different soils etc. I see that your record shows a crossing out of P. pusillus and it seems to now have the name of P. luxfilamentus attached to it. For the reasons above, I really don’t believe that is correct.

If you read all of the comments from the observation James linked, this is not the case. At that observation, it is explicitly stated that “Jerry Cooper has done sequencing of Panellus pusillus in NZ and Australia and found it closer to P. luxfilamentus”.

Thank you for your response. Landcare Research in New Zealand says that their fungus is “like but not identical to” P luxfilamentus. I don’t see that as good proof that luxfilamentus is in Australia.

Panellus luxfilamentus has been commonly misidentified
as Panellus pusillus in Asia, Australia and New Zealand” (Chew et al. 2014).

Chew, Audrey & Desjardin, Dennis & Tan, Yee Shin & Musa, Md Yusoff & Sabaratnam, Vikineswary. (2014). Bioluminescent fungi from Peninsular Malaysia—a taxonomic and phylogenetic overview. Fungal Diversity. doi:10.1007/s13225-014-0302-9.

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You are right, it is not proof that P. luxfilamentus s. str. is present in Australia (though it does explain, in my opinion, why so many people are using that ID, which seemed to be of interest to you). However, it is quite suggestive that P. pusillus s. str. is also not present in Australia. If you want to be absolutely correct with these, you should just be identifying them as Panellus, and saying that is as good as you can get right now. In practice, this is not very helpful. If someone ultimately publishes a new species, we can do a split of P. pusillus and/or P. luxfilamentus and move Australian observations to the new species. This is perhaps not possible with genus level IDs, which is an argument for using species level IDs. I don’t particularly see one species ID as the “right” one to use since both are wrong, but P. luxfilamentus, since it is actually a close relative, seems slightly more right to me.

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Hi from the ALA. Just a minor clarification - our taxon page for P. luxfilamentus shows that the source is NZOR - see https://bie.ala.org.au/species/NZOR-6-75692#names. The existence of a taxon page in the ALA doesn’t necessarily mean that a taxon is Australian. And even if records don’t match to a known taxon, they can still be found in the ALA by searching by area (https://biocache.ala.org.au/explore/your-area), or using the Advanced Search page (https://biocache.ala.org.au/search#tab_advanceSearch) using the Provided Scientific Name field.
Thanks @thebeachcomber!

Thanks Peggy.

This doesn’t really make sense to me; why would the ALA include a page/records for species that aren’t found in Australia? (assuming here that by ‘is Australian’, you mean ‘is found in Australia’ as opposed to ‘is native/endemic to Australia’; I definitely know that non-native species found in Australia have ALA pages, but in this case the implication seems to be that this fungus is putatively a NZ species only, in which case why did it have a page in the ALA to start with? [again, assuming my interpretation of your comment is correct])

Just to completely clarify what I’m confused about here:

  • you highlighted that the source for this species is NZOR, and that the existence of a taxon page in the ALA doesn’t necessarily mean that a taxon is Australian
  • to me, this clearly implies that the species is only found in NZ; if it was actually found in Australia, then why wouldn’t the source for the name be an Australian one? (e.g. AusFungi). If I search for a ‘non-Australian’ species like the red fox, the source for its name is listed as the AFD, i.e. an Australian source. So clearly, a species being non-native to Australia does not mean that a non-Australian source gets used. (ergo, surely the only possible explanation for a NZ source being used here is that the species is only from NZ? If this is not true, then why the inconsistency/why isn’t an Australian source used for this name?)
  • if that statement is true, i.e. that this species is only found in NZ, then why does it have a page on the ALA in the first place?
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Further to what @peggydnew said, ALA has got a lot of records from outside Australia, especially from New Zealand, so has to have species pages for species that do not occur in Australia as well. Peggy’s point is that ALA is not an authority for taxonomic names or for the occurrence of a taxon in Australia. It is the providers of taxonomic data and occurrence data, respectively, who are. All 266 records of Panellus luxfilamentus from Australia in ALA come from iNaturalist (https://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/search?q=lsid%3ANZOR-6-75692&qualityProfile=ALA&fq=country%3A"Australia"). There are also 216 iNaturalist records of Panellus pusillus from Australia in ALA (https://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/search?q=lsid%3A6cf906bd-a5aa-49ac-9398-2516c68b8ca9&qualityProfile=ALA&fq=country%3A"Australia"&fq=data_resource_uid%3A"dr1411"), so, if only one of the species occurs in Australia, at least 45 per cent of the iNaturalist identifications are incorrect.

Not being a mycologist, I am not going to take sides on whether Panellus pusillus sensu AusFungi and Panellus luxfilamentus sensu NZOR are the same species or different species and, if the former, what name should be applied to the species that occurs in Australia and New Zealand. However, one should not confound identifications with taxonomic statements. Not being able to indicate the usage of a name in iNaturalist identifications – and in the apparent absence of any taxonomic authority that places Panellus luxfilamentus in Australia – an identification of an Australian sighting to Panellus luxfilamentus means that the organism in the sighting belongs to a different species than what is recognised in Australia as Panellus pusillus, i.e. that there are two different species in Australia (as @thebeachcomber surmises), not that what is recognised as Panellus pusillus in Australia is the same as what is recognised as Panellus luxfilamentus in New Zealand. When doing identifications in a collaborative platform like iNaturalist, it is best to put one’s own taxonomic opinions aside. That is also what we taxonomists do when we compile authoritative taxonomies like AusFungi and AusMoss.

Thanks for weighing in Niels (and also welcome to the forum!)

What still makes zero sense to me is this:

Given the ALA explicitly markets themselves as aggregating “Australian biodiversity data”, why are these non-Australian data included in the platform?

@thebeachcomber , perhaps I should let @peggydnew , as the ALA Data manager, take this one, but, as administrator of the Australasian Virtual Herbarium, I can say something about this as well. The “Australian biodiversity data” also includes the holdings of all (hopefully eventually) Australian natural history collections and herbaria and these holdings include many foreign specimens. Before the advent of iNaturalist and similar projects, the collections data made up a much larger proportion of the ALA data than it does today and the collections community is still a very important part of the ALA community. The collections community needs ALA to deal with its foreign collections as well. ALA is also the Australian GBIF node and delivers/forwards our data to GBIF.

The Australasian Virtual Herbarium also includes nine New Zealand herbaria and I think there are a few more New Zealand collections that provide data to ALA (a.k.a. make use of the infrastructure ALA provides).

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Thanks, that make sense

So considering this, this means that the ALA contains data from Europe, the US, Africa, etc etc as well?

Yes, the ALA is primarily a provider of infrastructure. It will have foreign data (from everywhere in the world) from its Australian (and some New Zealand) data partners, but also has Australian data from overseas organisations, which it harvests from GBIF. So, while ALA aggregates Australian biodiversity data, some foreign data will inevitably come with it (as an exponent of the Australian collections community I would argue that all holdings of Australian collections is Australian biodiversity data). A lot of the infrastructure, however, will only work, or work better, with Australian occurrences.

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Yes, the ALA contains data from other places. We’re the Australian node of GBIF, and there’s nothing in any of our infrastructure that excludes records based on them not being in Australia. Where would we draw that line if we did? A map of all of our data shows that most of them are preserved specimen, indicating what Niels said about museums and collections having records from international collecting expeditions, and there’s lots of data from things like ship trawls and animal tracking and other research that may be undertaken by Australian organisations but outside of the EEZ.

It’s probably worth mentioning that our taxonomic backbone (and therefore our taxon pages) is built by merging taxon lists from a number of different authorities - most of its names are sourced from the National Species List (NSL), which is made up of the Australian Faunal Directory (AFD), Australian Plant Census (APC), the Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), AusFungi, and AusMoss. There are other sources like NZOR, CAAB and Catalog of Life. There’s some extra reading here and here.

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Just to clarify things in my mind, and based on this discussion, the consensus is to reject Chew et al’s assertion that P. luxfilamentus has been commonly misidentified as P. pusillus in Australia[1]? If so, on what basis?

[1] i.e. the way I’m reading the paper and their statement is that, for the most part at least, P. luxfilamentus is the species present in AU

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Thanks for getting this back on track @craig-r .

Just from reading the bit about Panellus luxfilamentus, Chew & al. (2015) do indeed make the assertion that “Panellus luxfilamentus has been commonly misidentified as Panellus pusillus in Asia, Australia and New Zealand”, but their research did not include any Australian or New Zealand or even references to Australasian specimens or observations. So, at face value, this does not seem a statement that needs to be rejected, but one that needs to be confirmed, and it looks like that has never happened. In fact, unpublished research in New Zealand indicates that "sequences of NZ material indicate our species [which is called Panellus pusillus] is closely related to P. luxfilamentus but not identical (https://www.nzor.org.nz/names/6de58963-6142-432c-9cb8-20eccab05da4 [nomenclature tab]).

They are not very clear about it and the information is a bit spread out over the publication, but it looks to me like Chew & al. are casting Panellus luxfilamentus as the Old World species and Panellus pusillus as the New World species. I think this might have been overlooked by the censuses.

My point, however, was that we should not confound the identification and taxonomy processes. You and I might think that the thing in Australia and New Zealand should be called Panellus luxfilamentus, but as long as NZOR and AusFungi call it Panellus pusillus we should follow that, as each determiner doing their own thing will erode the trust people can have in iNaturalist identifications. If people do not agree with what is in the censuses, that should be taken up with the censuses (I will try to follow up on that; mind you I am not a mycologist, so I might not have a lot of sway).

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Thanks for the detailed response, Niels. I agree with everything you’ve said. The other thing that bothered me about Chew et al. when I re-read it was the use of the terms “Old World” and “New World”. I know what they mean in the traditional sense but it seems a bit… “vague” might be too strong a word, but something along those lines.
I’m not a mycologist either, but would be interested in any replies the censuses might give

“Old World” and “New World” are pretty well established terms with definitions in the field of biogeography and their usage is fairly common, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_World

“The terms “Old World” vs. “New World” are meaningful in historical contexts and for the purpose of distinguishing the world’s major biogeographic realms and classifying plant and animal species that originated therein.”

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