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Fungi as Parasites: A Conspectus of the Fossil Record

Part of the Topics in Geobiology book series (TGBI,volume 49)

Abstract

Fungal parasites are important drivers in ecosystem dynamics today that can have far-reaching effects on the performance and community structure of other organisms. Knowledge of the fossil record and evolution of fungal parasitism is therefore a key component of our understanding of the complexity and functioning of ancient ecosystems. However, the fossil record of fungi as parasites remains exceedingly incomplete for several reasons. This chapter provides selected fossil examples of (putative) fungal parasites in association with land plants, algae, other fungi, and animals, and elucidates the inherent problems that often render interpretation of even the most exquisite fungal fossils difficult. Of all the potential levels of fungal interaction, parasitism is perhaps the most difficult to demonstrate in the fossil record. Different lines of evidence obtained from both the host and fungus are required to safely discriminate parasitic fungi from saprotrophs and even mutualists when examined in fossils.

Keywords

  • Chert
  • Disease symptom
  • Host response
  • Interaction
  • Mycoparasitism
  • Preservation
  • Rhynie chert

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge financial support from the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation (3.1-USA/1160852 STP to C.J.H.), and the National Science Foundation (DEB-1441604 subcontract S1696A-A to M.K.). We gratefully acknowledge H. Kerp and H. Hass (both Münster, Germany), G.O. Poinar and R.A. Stockey (both Corvallis, OR, USA), and A.R. Schmidt (Göttingen, Germany) for providing images, A.-L. Decombeix (Montpellier, France) for fruitful discussions, as well as N. Dotzler, H. Martin, and S. Sónyi (all Munich, Germany) for technical assistance, and K. De Baets (Erlangen, Germany) for insightful comments on the manuscript.

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Harper, C.J., Krings, M. (2021). Fungi as Parasites: A Conspectus of the Fossil Record. In: De Baets, K., Huntley, J.W. (eds) The Evolution and Fossil Record of Parasitism. Topics in Geobiology, vol 49. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-42484-8_3

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