Date: 27 Oct 2011

Molecular Diversity of Fungi from Marine Oxygen-Deficient Environments (ODEs)

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Abstract

Molecular diversity surveys of marine fungi have demonstrated that the species richness known to date is just the tip of the iceberg and that there is a large extent of unknown fungal diversity in marine habitats. Reports of novel fungal lineages at higher taxonomic levels are documented from a large number of marine habitats, including the various marine oxygen-deficient environments (ODEs). In the past few years, a strong focus of eukaryote diversity research has been on a variety of ODEs, as these environments are considered to harbor a large number of organisms, which are highly divergent to known diversity and could provide insights into the early eukaryotic evolution. ODEs that have been targeted so far include shallow water sediments, hydrothermal vent systems, deep-sea basins, intertidal habitats, and fjords. Most, if not all, molecular diversity studies in marine ODEs have shown, that contrary to previous assumptions, fungi contribute significantly to the micro-eukaryotic community in such habitats. In this chapter, we have reanalyzed the environmental fungal sequences obtained from the molecular diversity survey in 14 different sites to obtain a comprehensive picture of fungal diversity in these marine habitats. The phylogenetic analysis of the fungal environmental sequences from various ODEs have grouped these sequences into seven distinct clades (Clade 1–7) clustering with well-known fungal taxa. Apart from this, four environmental clades (EnvClade A, B, C, and D) with exclusive environmental sequences were also identified. This has provided information on the positioning of the environmental sequences at different taxonomic levels within the major fungal phylums. The taxonomic distribution of these environmental fungal sequences into clusters and clades has also shown that they are not restricted by geographical boundaries. The distribution pattern together with the reports on the respiratory abilities of fungi under reduced oxygen conditions shows that they are highly adaptive and may have a huge ecological role in these oxygen deficient habitats.