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

August 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: Coral algae (symbiodinium) discovered in black corals at never seen before depths

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

Related Stories

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

April 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 for the condition's ...

New corals discovered on UKs highest underwater mountain

August 4, 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 Areas.

Recommended for you

Ancient walnut forests linked to languages, trade routes

September 4, 2015

If Persian walnut trees could talk, they might tell of the numerous traders who moved along the Silk Roads' thousands of miles over thousands of years, carrying among their valuable merchandise the seeds that would turn into ...

Huddling rats behave as a 'super-organism'

September 3, 2015

Rodents huddle together when it is cold, they separate when it is warm, and at moderate temperatures they cycle between the warm center and the cold edges of the group. In a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology, ...

Fighting explosives pollution with plants

September 3, 2015

Biologists at the University of York have taken an important step in making it possible to clean millions of hectares of land contaminated by explosives.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.