GoLife: Filling the largest void in the fungal genealogy of life (the Pezizomycotina) and integrating symbiotic, environmental and physiological data layers.
The over-arching aims of this study are two-fold: (a) to fill the largest phylogenetic void in Fungi, and (b) to integrate data layers with the tree and with one another to catalyze emergent insights into the evolution of diverse, ubiquitous, and important symbioses that impact all aspects of human sustainability.
To do so we propose a large-scale, integrative, multidisciplinary study that brings together a complementary team to generate and link data layers with an enriched phylogenetic framework for Pezizomycotina (Ascomycota), the most diverse and evolutionarily dynamic fungal subphylum. Through a multidisciplinary focus on fungus-photoautotroph associations, the proposed work aims to contribute new perspectives on the fungal genealogy of life; fungal ecology, biodiversity, systematics, physiology, and distributions; the evolution of major trophic modes in Fungi; and the mechanisms underlying fungal interactions with photoautotrophs, as inferred through the lens of the most diverse and prevalent fungal symbioses on earth: fungal endophytes. Fungal endophytes inhabit living, symptomless tissues of plants and healthy thalli of lichens (as endolichenic fungi). Despite their abundance and emerging importance in all terrestrial biomes, endophytes in leaves and lichens are exceptionally understudied with respect to their diversity, phylogenetic relationships, distributions, and host affiliations. Often overlooked because they occur in symptomless tissues, endophytes are increasingly recognized as a trove of immense biodiversity that has the potential to reshape the fungal tree of life. Endophytes and endolichenic fungi – broadly including putatively related fungi that, we hypothesize, occur in association with marine, aquatic, and soil-borne cyanobacteria and algae – together represent the largest and least-known components of the fungal genealogy of life.