GoLife: Filling the largest void in the fungal genealogy of life (the Pezizomycotina) and integrating symbiotic, environmental and physiological data layers.
Why prioritize the Pezizomycotina? Fungi are fundamental to all aspects of terrestrial ecosystem function, and influence nutrient cycling, plant health, and ecological processes in wild and domesticated communities on which all aspects of human sustainability depend. However, Fungi are under-studied compared to plants and animals: in the most comprehensive trees of life published so far, Fungi occupy only a sliver of the represented phylogenetic space. Yet, fungal biodiversity likely exceeds that of plants and animals. Although only ca. 100,000 species of Fungi have been described, at least 5.1 million species are thought to exist. The Pezizomycotina is the most species-rich subphylum of Fungi, comprising nearly 59,000 known species. Recent studies have uncovered a stunning richness of previously unknown Pezizomycotina occurring in symbiosis with plants (as endophytes) and lichens (as endolichenic fungi, primarily associating with cyanobacteria and algal photobionts). Newly discovered endophytic and endolichenic fungi reveal a phylogenetic void that is both broad (many new species) and deep (new phylogenetic lineages at deeper levels). For example, a culture-based study of endophytic fungi isolated from sapwood of wild Hevea (rubber) trees in Peru recently revealed a new class (Xylonomycetes) within the largest fungal radiation (Leotiomyceta) (Gazis et al. 2012). This new class appears to have arisen > 400 Ma, connects previously rogue taxa (e.g., Symbiotaphrina) to the backbone of the Pezizomycotina for the first time, and uncovers a new evolutionary trajectory in the Fungi as a whole. Similarly, Chen et al. (2015) established a new order (Phaeomoniellales, Eurotiomycetes) based on multilocus analyses of endophytes found mostly in Coniferophyta; this provides for the first time a phylogenetic framework for the study of related, parasitic fungi on important crops. Given the importance of the Pezizomycotina to all aspects of ecosystem function and their potential applications in agriculture, industry, and medicine, a new phylogenetic context for Pezizomycotina is urgently needed.
Chen, K.-H., Miadlikowska, J., Molnár, K., Arnold, A. E., U’Ren, J. M., Gaya, E., Gueidan, C. and Lutzoni, F. 2015. Phylogenetic analyses of eurotiomycetous endophytes reveal their close affinities to Chaetothyriales, Eurotiales and a new order – Phaeomoniellales. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 85:117-130.
Gazis, R., Miadlikowska, J., Lutzoni, F., Arnold, E., and Chaverri, P. 2012. Culture-based study of endophytes associated with rubber trees in Peru reveals a new class of Pezizomycotina: Xylonomycetes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 65:294-304