, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 199-213,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Stuck in time – a new Chaenothecopsis species with proliferating ascomata from Cunninghamia resin and its fossil ancestors in European amber

Abstract

Resin protects wounded trees from microbial infection, but also provides a suitable substrate for the growth of highly specialized fungi. Chaenothecopsis proliferatus is described growing on resin of Cunninghamia lanceolata from Hunan Province, China. The new fungus is compared with extant species and two new fossil specimens from Eocene Baltic and Oligocene Bitterfeld ambers. The Oligocene fossil had produced proliferating ascomata identical to those of the newly described species and to other extant species of the same lineage. This morphology may represent an adaptation to growing near active resin flows: the proliferating ascomata can effectively rejuvenate if partially overrun by fresh, sticky exudate. Inward growth of fungal hyphae into resin has only been documented from Cenozoic amber fossils suggesting comparatively late occupation of resin as substrate by fungi. Still, resinicolous Chaenothecopsis species were already well adapted to their special ecological niche by the Eocene, and the morphology of these fungi has since remained remarkably constant.