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Department of Life Sciences Seminar


The origin of land plants-fungus symbioses: novel insights from the bryophyte clade



Silvia Pressel

Plants, Dept of Life Sciences, NHM


Wednesday 20 of February 11:00
Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

Bryophytes (liverworts, mosses and hornworts) are the closest living relatives to the first land plants. Because of their evolutionary position, bryophytes are considered key to understanding the origin and evolution of some of the major adaptations that drove plant terrestrialization: cuticle, stomata, intercellular spaces, conducting cells and fungal symbioses.  In this seminar I will focus on the latter and will discuss how our latest collaborative research is providing novel insights on the earliest symbiotic events between land plants and fungi.  Our discovery that the Mucoromycotina, a fungal lineage thought to have diverged earlier than the Glomeromycota, are the ubiquitous symbionts in liverworts from the earliest divergent clade of land plants (Haplomitriopsida) directly challenges the long-held paradigm that glomeromycotes formed the ancestral land plant-fungus symbiosis.  On the other hand, our latest anatomical and molecular phylogenetic data on the mycobionts of hornworts – currently considered the sister group to tracheophytes - show that in this group both Glomeromycota and Mucoromycotina fungi can form symbioses, and often simultaneously. This discovery suggests that ancient terrestrial plants relied on a more versatile and wider repertoire of fungi than hitherto assumed and further highlights the so far unappreciated ecological and evolutionary role of the Mucoromycotina, a largely ‘forgotten’ primeval fungal lineage.




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