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Truffle hunting dog makes unexpected discovery in Valga forest

A group of mycologists and truffle hunting dog Rocky found a new species of truffle, never seen before in Estonia, in Valga county last Thursday.

The find, Tuber aestivum, is so new, it doesn't even have an official Estonian name yet. For now, mycologists have christened it summer truffle.

The discovery was made by 4-year-old Rocky, who Italian mycologist Alessandro Saitta bought just five months ago and trained to hunt truffles.

Saitta and his colleagues from the University of Tartu were in the forest due to the Nordic Mycological Congress. During the event, 60 researches went into nature to collect fungi and determine the DNA of the collected species. The gathered data will be entered in a global database which is developed by the University of Tartu researchers.

Mycologists Eveli Otsing, Leho Tedersoo, Alessandro Saitta and truffle hunting dog Rocky (Photo: Vello Liiv).

A total of 50 different truffle species have been found in Estonia. Tuber aestivum is common in Europe but the never before seen in Estonia.

"We had suspected for 10 years that it could grow in Estonia for it has been found in Åland and Gotland," said Leho Tedersoo, a UT mycologist who was accompanying Saitta and Rocky at the time of the discovery. "But for this reason, we hoped to find it in Saaremaa last fall."

What makes the find so surprising is the fact that Tuber aestivum does not like low temperatures, but Valga County is one Estonia's coldest regions, Tedersoo explained.

Researchers refuse to disclose the exact location of the unexpected find but said they have collected samples to help them determine whether the species reached Estonia from mainland Europe or Scandinavia.

Truffles and truffle hunting dogs, the latter costing up to 2,000 euros, are very common in Europe but not so much in Estonia.

Editor: M. Oll

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