From dandruff to deep sea vents, an ecologically hyper-diverse fungus

Aug 21, 2014

A ubiquitous skin fungus linked to dandruff, eczema and other itchy, flaky maladies in humans has now been tracked to even further global reaches—including Hawaiian coral reefs and the extreme environments of arctic soils and deep sea vents.

A review in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens considers the diversity, ecology, and distribution of the fungi of the genus Malassezia in light of new insights gained from screening environmental sequencing datasets from around the world.

University of Hawai'i at Mānoa scientist Anthony Amend discovered that members of this genus encompass a species and far greater than previously credited, and appear to have diversified repeatedly into and out of marine environments. Until recently, these fungi were assumed to have evolved to inhabit mammalian skin.

"We have found multiple new examples of these fungi on corals, sponges and algae and in water samples, deep sea thermal vents and sediments from Hawai'i and around the world," Amend said. "Equally as remarkable, a single strain of the noted human associate, Malassezia restricta, is found in some of the most extreme and disconnected habitats on the planet, including arctic soils and ."

Scratching your head yet? We're not the only ones. Marine mammals like seals, as well as fish, lobsters, sponges, plankton, and corals apparently also have that Malassezia itch. In fact, the fungus appears to dominate certain .

Emerging evidence even suggests that an interaction with warming ocean waters is linked to a reef banding disease observed at Palmyra Atoll for which a new Malassezia is implicated.

"Residence in such a broad range of habitats is exceptional and clearly ranks this dandruff-causing fungus as one of the most ecologically diverse on the planet," Amend said. "Marine Malassezia should most certainly be the focus of future research into the diversity and distribution of this enigmatic group."

Explore further: Unraveling the mysteries of the Red Sea: A new reef coral species from Saudi Arabia

More information: Amend A (2014) From Dandruff to Deep-Sea Vents: Malassezia-like Fungi Are Ecologically Hyper-diverse. PLoS Pathog 10(8): e1004277. doi:10.1371/ journal.ppat.1004277

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A new 'Achilles' heel' in fungus that causes dandruff

Apr 25, 2012

Research on the fungus that ranks as one cause of dandruff — the embarrassing nuisance that, by some accounts, afflicts half of humanity — is pointing scientists toward a much-needed new treatment ...

New corals discovered on UKs highest underwater mountain

Aug 04, 2014

Heriot-Watt scientists have discovered new populations of deep-sea corals growing on the slopes of the UK's highest underwater mountain, a site recently added to the list of Scotland's new Marine Protected ...

Recommended for you

Alaska refuge proposes killing invasive caribou

11 hours ago

Federal wildlife officials are considering deadly measures to keep an Alaska big game animal introduced more than 50 years ago to a remote island in the Aleutians from expanding its range.

Five ways to stop the world's wildlife vanishing

19 hours ago

Full marks to colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London for the Living Planet Report 2014 and its headline message which one hopes ought to shock the world out of its com ...

User comments : 0