Fungi are among the most diverse and understudied organisms, so major evolutionary branches composed of hundreds of species are still being discovered.
In the course of her PhD studies at Kew and Imperial College London on environmental change in Europes forests, supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, Filipa Cox detected fungi in pine roots on the basis of DNA also recorded on other continents by other molecular ecologists.
An international team led by Anna Rosling (Uppsala BioCentre/Indiana University) has now been successful in culturing these fungi in vitro and has shown them to be a diverse, ancient and previously unknown group, the class Archaeorhizomycetes.
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More information: Rosling, A., et al. (2011). Archaeorhizomycetes: unearthing an ancient class of ubiquitous soil fungi. Science 333: 876-879.