Fungal taxonomy in the molecular age

Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity Seminar

Wednesday, 1st April 12.30pmCBB logo
Landcare Research, 231 Morrin Road

Speaker: Peter Johnston
Landcare ResearchPeter JohnstonThese are exciting times to be a mycologist. Molecular technologies are revolutionising our understanding of fungal distribution, biology, and origins. For the first time it is possible to develop phylogenies that might be accurate, to verify whether species are exotic or indigenous, and to track the distribution of fungi across landscapes. For the past 300 years, until about 10 years ago, fungal names and classifications were based on morphological characters. Today, fungal taxonomy is driven by phylogenies constructed using DNA sequences. Many user groups rely on DNA sequencing for fungal identification – plant pathologists, ecologists, mycorrhizal researchers. However, the traditional, morphologically- based fungal taxa are often not supported genetically. Therefore, access to the accumulated knowledge on an organism, linked to its morphologically based name, requires reconciliation between the traditional taxa and classifications and molecular phylogenies. High throughput sequencing technologies will be used in the Bioheritage National Science Challenge real time biodiversity assessment projects to measure changes in biological diversity across New Zealand. Analysis of the NSC fungal data will rely on the phylogeny- based classifications currently being developed, while interpretation of its significance will rely on the knowledge attached to the old names. This talk will use the Leotiomycetes (disc fungi) to illustrate some of the taxonomic issues involved with the development of these new classifications and their implications for the use of fungal names.

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