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Abstract Detail

Plants and fungi--growing together

Taylor, Thomas N. [1], Krings, Michael [2].

Fungal endophytes: a driving force in land plant evolution.

Endophytic fungi are known to affect plant diversity and structure within modern ecosystems, and it is believed that these organisms were also a significant driving force in plant evolution. Although direct evidence from the fossil record is rare, there are several well-preserved communities that document the evolutionary “arms race” between endophytic fungi and land plants. One of these is the Early Devonian Rhynie chert, in which there are numerous examples of early land plants parasitized by fungi. The presence of specific host responses (e.g., encasements, thickened cell walls) indicates that some of the mechanisms causing host responses in extant plants were in place 400 myr ago. Other Rhynie chert fungi entered into mutualistic relationships with land plants in the form of endomycorrhizae that resemble VAMs of extant plants. Still other saprotrophic, fungi were important elements in the nutrient cycles of the ecosystem. Less well studied than the Rhynie chert, but also containing well-preserved land plants and fungi, are the Carboniferous cherts from central France. Here, diverse assemblages of endophytic microfungi and fungi-like microorganisms show biological interactions similar to those seen in the Rhynie chert, depite the fact that the host plants were entirely different in these two terrestrial paleoecosystems.

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1 - University of Kansas, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, 1200 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence, Kansas, 66045-7534, USA
2 - Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie und GeoBio-Ce, Richard-Wagner-Straße 10, Munich, 80333, Germany

Rhynie chert.

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: S13
Location: 178/Law
Date: Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
Time: 2:15 PM
Number: S13003
Abstract ID:411

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