, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 9-18
Date: 15 Oct 2008

Acaulosporoid glomeromycotan spores with a germination shield from the 400-million-year-old Rhynie chert

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Scutellosporites devonicus from the Early Devonian Rhynie chert is the only fossil glomeromycotan spore taxon known to produce a germination shield. This paper describes a second type of glomeromycotan spore with a germination shield from the Rhynie chert. In contrast to S. devonicus, however, these spores are acaulosporoid and develop laterally in the neck of the sporiferous saccule. Germination shield morphology varies, from plate-like with single or double lobes to tongue-shaped structures usually with infolded margins that are distally fringed or palmate. Spore walls are complex and appear to be constructed of at least three wall groups, the outermost of which includes the remains of the saccule. The complement of features displayed by the fossils suggests a relationship with the extant genera Ambispora, Otospora, Acaulospora or Archaeospora, but which of these is the closest extant relative cannot be determined. The acaulosporoid spores from the Rhynie chert document that this spore type was in existence already ∼400 mya, and thus contribute to a more complete understanding of the evolutionary history of the Glomeromycota. This discovery pushes back the evolutionary origin of all main glomeromycotan groups, revealing that they had evolved before rooted land plants had emerged.