A historic Portuguese cathedral is being ‘eaten’ by fungi, researchers have discovered.

Researchers say the 8-century-old cathedral Sé Velha de Coimbra (Old Cathedral of Coimbra), which is the only Romanesque cathedral in Portugal to have survived relatively intact since the Reconquista times, is under attack from a strange new fungus.  

Scientists retrieved a peculiar slow-growing microcolonial black fungus that has never been seen before.

‘Microcolonial black fungi are considered one of the main culprits for the phenomenon of stone biodeterioration, being responsible for severe aesthetic, biochemical and biophysical alterations,’ the scientists behind the study said. 

 João Trovão of the University of Coimbra in Portugal and his colleagues found the attacker is part of a whole new family (Aeminiaceae) in the order of the sooty mould fungi. 

The new species, its new genus and the novel family are described in the open-access journal MycoKeys.

To define the new group of fungi, the researchers first scraped off samples from a deteriorated limestone artwork in the ‘Santa Maria’ chapel and then conducted an extensive and integrative analysis, based on morphological, physiological, ecological characters and DNA sequences.

As for the origin of the previously unknown fungus, the scientists hypothesise that the species had ‘arrived’ at the Old Cathedral of Coimbra with the limestone used during its construction. 

Original Source

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