How plants conquered the land
Researchers contemplate the first symbioses between plants and fungi..
06 Feb 2012
Scanning electron micrograph of an Endogone-like mycorrhiza of Treubia (Image: Jeffrey Duckett)
Since the 1970s scientists have widely agreed that the fungi that today form the most common nutritional symbioses with plants, the arbuscular mycorrhiza, were also those that enabled early rootless plants to colonise Earth's nutrient poor primeval soils over 400 million years ago.
New evidence from a project led by Martin Bidartondo (Kew/Imperial College), which examines ancient plant lineages using DNA analyses and electron microscopy, indicates a more likely and unexpected candidate - an overlooked group of fungi, the pea truffles (Endogone).
Research, published in Biology Letters, found that Endogone-like fungi are widely associated with land plants found in the earliest phylogenetic lineages, and that plants allied to arbuscular mycorrhizas only appear much later on. This suggests that Endogone-like fungi may have been primarily responsible the initial greening of the Earth.
Item from Dr Martin Bidartondo (Senior Lecturer, Imperial College / Research Fellow, RBG Kew)
Kew Scientist, issue 40
Bidartondo, M. I., Read, D. J., Trappe, J. M., Merckx, V., Ligrone, R. & Duckett, J. G. (2011). The dawn of symbiosis between plants and fungi. Biology Letters 7: 574–577.
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