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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2009 Jul;52(1):34-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2009.03.017. Epub 2009 Mar 27.

Repeated evolution of closed fruiting bodies is linked to ascoma development in the largest group of lichenized fungi (Lecanoromycetes, Ascomycota).

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Department of Plant Biology and Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota, 1445 Gortner Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.


Fruiting bodies are responsible for the effective dispersal of meiospores in ascomycetes. Different fruiting body types include open (apothecia) or closed (perithecia, cleistothecia) forms, which have traditionally been used as key paradigms for ascomycete classification. Molecular phylogenies show that most fruiting body types have multiple phylogenetic origins within the phylum, and are not suitable for the circumscription of classes. One exception are perithecia that are restricted in non-lichenized fungi to the monophyletic class Sordariomycetes. However, lichenized fungi with perithecioid fruiting bodies were found to belong to three other classes unrelated to Sordariomycetes. One of these is Lecanoromycetes, which includes the bulk of lichenized fungi. To understand the evolution of perithecioid fruiting bodies in the mostly apotheciate Lecanoromycetes, we assembled a combined data set of nuclear and mitochondrial ribosomal, and RPB1 DNA sequences, and traced the evolution of two morphological characters (fruiting body type and fruiting body development). We reconstructed ancestral character states using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods. Additionally, we tested for correlation of character changes in a combined Bayesian/maximum likelihood framework. The results suggest that perithecia have evolved in unrelated groups of lichen-forming fungi. Within Lecanoromycetes they have evolved independently several times from apotheciate ancestors. Further, our analyses support a correlation between the type of fruiting body and the type of ascoma ontogeny. The evolution of angiocarpous ascoma development in Lecanoromycetes is a pre-adaptation for the repeated gain of perithecia. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis of a neotenic origin of perithecioid fruiting bodies in Lecanoromycetes.

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