New Discovery Finds Fungi Different From All Known Forms is Ubiquitous

Posted on May 13, 2011  Comments (5)

A New, Somewhat Moldy Branch On The Tree Of Life

Many fungi are already familiar. There are mushrooms, yeasts, molds like the one that makes penicillin, plant diseases such as rusts and smuts. Mildew in your shower is one, along with athlete’s foot. There are even fungi that infect insects — as well as fungi that live on other fungi.

Biologists figure they’ve probably only cataloged about 10 percent of all fungal species. But they thought they at least knew all of the major groups.

They found novel bits of DNA — related to fungi, but clearly different from all of the known varieties — just about everywhere, “including pond water, lake water, freshwater sediments and marine sediments,” Richards says. “Almost everywhere we looked we found this novel group.”

They then brought samples back to the lab and devised a technique to make the organisms containing this novel DNA glow under a microscope. As a result, they’ve managed to get a few glimpses of these mysterious life forms, which they have named cryptomycota.

“We know they have at least three stages to their life cycle,” Richards says. “One is where they attach to a host, which are photosynthetic algae. Another stage … they form swimming tails so they can presumably find food. And [there’s] another stage, which we call the cyst phase, where they go to sleep.”

Science continues to explore and find new wonders around us. There is so much still to learn.

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5 Responses to “New Discovery Finds Fungi Different From All Known Forms is Ubiquitous”

  1. Alex Aguilar
    May 13th, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    I read this story on the BBC News site where it had the heading Missing link fungi found… Was their headline sensational or is this thing really the missing link of all fungi? Your little blurb describes cryptomycota as a new type of fungi, whereas the BBC article speculates that they are the related to the predecessors of other fungi species.

  2. curiouscat
    May 13th, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

    I believe the first fact is that the fungi is distinct from other fungi. An extrapolation of those facts and some DNA analysis lead the scientists to believe it is a living ancestor of the break between plants and fungi. They seem pretty confident in that, but I think that claim is a bit less certain.

  3. Anonymous
    May 14th, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

    Hi John thanks for the post – but from what exactlz did curiouscat draw the conclusion that fungi are living ancestors of plants? Are there any studies to support this theory?

  4. Anonymous
    May 17th, 2011 @ 12:10 am

    All I know is that mushrooms are fungi but they are good enough to eat so that means not all fungi are weird looking.

  5. Brandon Luke
    June 21st, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

    This is no surprising. I love science but people who love science know that it has yet to discover a lot of things. There are still a lot of mysteries out there and a lot of unknown species simply because that are yet to be discovered. Take the sea for example. I believe there are still millions of unknown species down there.

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