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University pond reveals hidden history of fungi
Date:5/11/2011

Researchers at the University of Exeter have uncovered a 'missing link' in the fungal tree of life after analysing samples taken from the university's pond.

Their study, published today [11 May] in Nature, explains the discovery of a hitherto unknown type of fungi which has fundamentally expanded the scientific understanding of this group of organisms.

Fungi are hugely important as they interact with plants and animals, and are the primary way in which biomass, such as dead plants or animals, are broken down and recycled.

Dr Tom Richards, from the University of Exeter's Biosciences department and the Natural History Museum London, said: "This study has been very surprising not least because the original sample came from the nearby pond. Fungi have been well studied for 150 years and it was thought we had a good understanding of the major evolutionary groups, but these findings have changed that radically.

"Current understanding of fungal diversity turns out to be only half the story we've discovered this diverse and deep evolutionary branch in fungi that has remained hidden all this time."

The researchers have temporarily named the new group cryptomycota which is Greek for 'hidden fungi'.

Cryptomycota changes the understanding of the whole fungi group because it lacks something which was previously considered essential for the classification a tough cell wall which is important for how fungi feed and grow.

These results may suggest cryptomycota represents an intermediate state or a 'living fossil'. Despite lacking the tough cell wall, they seem still to be very successful in the environment because of their extensive diversity and cosmopolitan distribution.

Dr Meredith Jones, also of the University of Exeter and the Natural History Museum London, found the microbes. She said: "While the first sample used in our investigation was taken from the university pond, cryptomycota are pr
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Contact: Daniel Williams
d.d.williams@exeter.ac.uk
44-013-927-22062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert

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