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

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

Cuban, US scientists bond over big sharks

Jul 03, 2015

Somewhere in the North Atlantic right now, a longfin mako shark—a cousin of the storied great white—is cruising around, oblivious to the yellow satellite tag on its dorsal fin.

Research shows 'mulch fungus' causes turfgrass disease

Jul 02, 2015

Inadvertently continuing a line of study they conducted about 15 years ago, a team of Penn State researchers recently discovered the causal agent for an emerging turfgrass disease affecting golf courses around ...

User comments : 0

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.