Farlow Fellow Luis Quijada and collegues have a new publication, "Apothecial Ancestry, Evolution, and Re-Evolution in Thelebolales (Leotiomycetes, Fungi)," in a special issue of the journal Biology.
Abstract: Closed cleistothecia-like ascomata have repeatedly evolved in non-related perithecioid and apothecioid lineages of lichenized and non-lichenized Ascomycota. The evolution of a closed, darkly pigmented ascoma that protects asci and ascospores is conceived as either an adaptation to harsh environmental conditions or a specialized dispersal strategy. Species with closed ascomata have mostly lost sterile hymenial elements (paraphyses) and the capacity to actively discharge ascospores. The class Leotiomycetes, one of the most speciose classes of Ascomycota, is mainly apothecioid, paraphysate, and possesses active ascospore discharge. Lineages with closed ascomata, and their morphological variants, have evolved independently in several families, such as Erysiphaceae, Myxotrichaceae, Rutstroemiaceae, etc. Thelebolales is a distinctive order in the Leotiomycetes class. It has two widespread families (Thelebolaceae, Pseudeurotiaceae) with mostly closed ascomata, evanescent asci, and thus passively dispersed ascospores. Within the order, closed ascomata dominate and a great diversity of peridia have evolved as adaptations to different dispersal strategies. The type genus, Thelebolus, is an exceptional case of ascomatal evolution within the order. Its species are the most diverse in functional traits, encompassing species with closed ascomata and evanescent asci, and species with open ascomata, active ascospore discharge, and paraphyses. Open ascomata were previously suggested as the ancestral state in the genus, these ascomata depend on mammals and birds as dispersal agents. In this scheme, species with closed ascomata, a lack of paraphyses, and passive ascospore discharge exhibit derived traits that evolved in adaptation to cold ecosystems. Here, we used morphological and phylogenetic methods, as well as the reconstruction of ancestral traits for ascomatal type, asci dehiscence, the presence or absence of paraphyses, and ascospore features to explore evolution within Thelebolales. We demonstrate the apothecial ancestry in Thelebolales and propose a new hypothesis about the evolution of the open ascomata in Thelebolus, involving a process of re-evolution where the active dispersal of ascospores appears independently twice within the order. We propose a new family, Holwayaceae, within Thelebolales, that retains the phenotypic features exhibited by species of Thelebolus, i.e., pigmented capitate paraphyses and active asci discharge with an opening limitation ring.
Quijada L, Matočec N, Kušan I, Tanney JB, Johnston PR, Mešić A, Pfister DH. Apothecial Ancestry, Evolution, and Re-Evolution in Thelebolales (Leotiomycetes, Fungi). Biology. 2022; 11(4):583. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology11040583