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Tolypocladium inflatum

Here is a little fungus that made it big. Collected by a Field Mycology class south of Ithaca, the fungus is Cordyceps subsessilis, an exceedingly rare beetle pathogen. Back at the lab, its spores germinated to form colonies of a mold known as Tolypocladium inflatum. This kind of thing happens all the time in mycology. Many fungi are pleomorphic and can grow in astonishingly different looking forms--we're always having to figure out the connections between them.

The connection between Cordyceps subsessilis and Tolypocladium inflatum is unremarkable, except for two things: First, Tolypocladium inflatum is the source of the important immunosuppressant drug cyclosporin. Second, our discovery coincided with the founding of the Finger Lakes Land Trust's Biodiversity Preserve. This fungus acted as a catalyst in leading Schering-Plough to sponsor important fungal inventorying and bioprospecting on the Preserve. It is among the few fungi to be featured on Good Morning America and in the New York Times. All this made for an interesting year.

See: Hodge, K. T., S. B. Krasnoff, and R. A. Humber. 1996. Tolypocladium inflatum is the anamorph of Cordyceps subsessilis. Mycologia 88:715-719.