Fungi inhabit most of the world’s ecological niches where they perform numerous services that are central to ecosystem functioning. Despite significant advancements in our understanding of the evolutionary relationships within Kingdom Fungi, the earliest diverging events are still very poorly understood. Resolving the earliest branches in the Kingdom Fungi is essential to identify the characteristics of the ancestral fungi, to determine what traits emerged with the dawn of terrestrial ecosystems, and to obtain an accurate assessment of the genomic and metabolic homologies that comprise and culminated in the fungal life style. Importantly, the early diverging lineages of fungi associate with plants in numerous ecological roles across the phylogenetic breadth of the green plant lineage including: parasites and decomposers of green algae, arbuscular mycorrhizae of grasses, and root endophytes of trees. They are also known to associate with primitive land plants including liverworts and mosses.
Proposer’s Name: Joey Spatafora, Oregon State University