Twenty-five years ago, Brian Sullivan saw a fungus growing in bark alongside the small southern pine engraver (Ips avulsus). The beetle is native to the U.S. and commonly kills stressed pine trees.
Sullivan, a USDA Forest Service research entomologist, examined the fungus. He identified its genus but could not identify the species – the fungus was new to science and had never been described. Sullivan provided mycologist Thomas Harrington and his colleagues at Iowa State University with specimens of the fungus growing within beetle-infested bark.
Harrington and his colleagues recently described this fungal species and named it after Sullivan: Entomocorticium sullivanii. The fungus is symbiotic with the beetle and apparently provides nutrition.
Sullivan joins Ansel Adams, David Attenborough, Leonard Cohen, E.O. Wilson, and many other people who have a species namesake. Research etiquette forbids naming a species after oneself – the distinction must be bestowed by others.
In addition to first documenting the new fungus and providing specimens to Harrington, Sullivan has greatly expanded our knowledge of bark beetles – here in the U.S. and internationally. Sullivan has made lasting contributions to the fields of bark beetle biology, chemical ecology, and systematics.