We obtained four isolates of the xerophilic genus Wallemia from the rooftop of a house made of red brick and cement in an agronomic field planted with common beans and maize in Pachacamac, Lima, Peru. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis with rDNA gene sequences showed these Wallemia isolates form a distinct and strongly supported clade closely related to W. hederae. We examined the macro and micromorphology, growth rate and production of exudates of isolates on media containing different amounts of glucose and NaCl (water activity from 0.9993 to 0.8480). Their chaotropic and kosmotropic tolerance were tested on media with multiple molar concentrations of MgCl2 and MgSO4 (water activity from 0.9880 to 0.7877). Isolates are xerophilic and halotolerant, growing on 17% NaCl-supplemented media (water activity = 0.8480). Maximum concentrations of MgCl2 and MgSO4 at which growth was observed were 1.7 and 3.5 M, respectively. Isolates were shown to represent a novel species, described as Wallemia peruviensis sp. nov. In contrast to W. hederae, W. peruviensis does not produce exudates on malt extract agar + 17% NaCl media. An updated dichotomous key to Wallemia species is provided. This is the first new species of Wallemia described from South America and the first association of a Wallemia species with an agricultural environment on this continent.
Keywords: Air-borne fungi; Biodiversity; Chaotolerance; Halotolerance; Osmotic stress; Wallemiomycetes; Xerotolerance.