7 Evolution of the ‘Plant-Symbiotic’ Fungal Phylum, Glomeromycota

  • Arthur SchüßlerEmail author
  • Christopher Walker
Part of the The Mycota book series (MYCOTA, volume 14)


The most widespread and prominent symbiosis between land plants and fungi is the arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM). This type of mycorrhiza symbiosis is formed between approximately 80% of land plants and a monophyletic group of obligate symbiotic, multikaryotic and asexual fungi, the Glomeromycota. Despite the enormous ecological and economical importance of AM fungi, their biology is poorly understood. The focus here is, after reporting some historical aspects, on the recently advanced understanding of molecular phylogenetic relationships, the evolution and biogeography, and the obligate symbiotic endobacteria of AM fungi. Fossils and molecular clock estimates date the origin of AM symbioses to at least 460 MY ago, and AM fungi and land plants coevolved since then. Possibly, the fungi in the Glomeromycota were already ‘on the symbiotic track’ long before land plants originated. Aspects regarding the asexual evolution and heterokaryotic nature of glomeromycotan fungi and a feasible species concept are discussed.


Land Plant Arbuscular Mycorrhiza Bdelloid Rotifer Fungal Lineage Land Plant Evolution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Manuela Krüger for her help with the artwork and for helpful comments on and proofreading of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Genetics, Department of BiologyUniversity of Munich (LMU)MartinsriedGermany
  2. 2.Royal Botanic Garden EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.School of Earth Sciences and EnvironmentUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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