Two new species of fermenting yeasts named after journalist and activist Bruno Pereira

Two new species of fermenting yeasts named after journalist and activist Bruno Pereira

Two new species of fermenting yeasts have been found in Brazil and named after journalist Dom Phillips and activist Bruno Pereira, the two murdered last year in the Amazon rainforest.

According to a paper published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, the discovery came from four isolates of the species Spathaspora.

Both species are able to convert d-xylose into ethanol and xylitol, a kind of natural sweetener that could be used for diabetics or other biotechnological applications, said Carlos Augusto Rosa, one of the study's authors.

Rosa said that despite the fact that the Amazon rainforest is home to 10% of the planet's biodiversity, much of it remains undiscovered and that percentage is even higher in the field of yeasts.

Between 30% and 50% of all new yeast microorganisms found in the Brazilian regions where he and his colleagues work are new to science, he said.

Hence the importance of research in this area and Bruno and Dom's efforts to preserve the region's biome, Rosa said.

He said that the species was named after the two late figures recognises, values and pays tribute to the pair for their work in defence of the environment.

The research paper said that the two yeasts were obtained from rotting wood collected in two different sites of the Amazonian forest in the state of Par. The name Spathaspora brunopereirae sp nov is proposed to accommodate these isolates.

The two isolates were obtained from a region of transition between the Amazonian forest and the Cerrado ecosystem in the state of Tocantins. This novel species is proposed by the name Spathaspora domphillipsii sp nov. The paper was authored by 11 microbiologists from three universities in Minas Gerais state, Tocantins state, and Western Ontario, Canada.

Phillips and Pereira were murdered in June last year while they were traveling down a river in the Javari Valley near Brazil's border with Peru.

Phillips, a former freelancer for the Guardian and the Washington Post, was working on a book about sustainable development in the Amazon. Pereira, a longtime advocate for indigenous rights, was with him as a guide and local activist.

Four men are in jail accused of ordering or participating in the crime.

Phillips and Pereira are some of the famous people with plants or animals named after them. Thousands of new species are identified every year, and those who discover them often give them novel names.

After the discovery of an Australian horsefly, a blood-sucking crustacean parasite was named Gnathia marleyi in tribute to reggae star Bob Marley, and a beetle was named after environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg in 2019.

In 2001, scientists named a species of mushroom Spongiforma squarepantsii after the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.