Friday, 25 November 2022

Creationism in Crisis - Genetics Confirms Common Ancestry of 'Oddball' Fungi

Genome studies uncover a new branch in fungal evolution | Folio
Earth tongue fungi
The earth tongue is one of 600 “oddball” fungi that were found to share a common ancestor dating back 300 million years, according to University of Alberta researchers.
Photo: Alan Rockefeller, (CC-BY-SA-4.0)

In a stunning example of the power of the Theory of Evolution (TOE) to explain otherwise puzzling observations, a team of scientists led by principal investigator, Toby Spribille an associate professor in Alberta University's Department of Biological Sciences, has shown how some 600 'oddball' fungi share a common ancestor that lived about 300 million years ago.

The problem was that the usual Linnaean method of classification, using the appearance of organisms, some 600 strange fungi were difficult to fit into any single taxon.

In addition to this obvious confirmation that the TOE is the basis of biology, confirmed by genetics, there is the additional embarrassment for Creationists in the finding that the diversity of this group is due to a loss of genetic information, made possible by a symbiotic existence, where the co-symbiont has taken on some of the basic functions. That a loss of information is always detrimental and evolution requires an increase in information is now a central dogma of Creationism that flies in the face of evidence such as this.

The Alberta University news release explain the research:
About 600 seemingly disparate fungi that never quite found a fit along the fungal family tree have been shown to have a common ancestor, according to a University of Alberta-led research team that used genome sequencing to give these peculiar creatures their own classification home.

They don't have any particular feature that you can see with the naked eye where you can say they belong to the same group. But when you go to the genome, suddenly this emerges.

I like to think of these as the platypus and echidna of the fungal world.

Though nobody thought our fungi were fake, it’s similar because they all look totally different.

What is really fascinating is that despite these fungi looking so different, they have a lot in common at the level of their genomes. Nobody saw this coming.

Their small genomes mean this class of fungi have lost much of their ability to integrate some complex carbohydrates. When we go back to look at each of these fungi, suddenly we see all of them are in a kind of symbiosis.

We think it’s likely that the diversity we see today is just the tip of the iceberg that survived. And we don’t have that many examples of this kind of thing in fungi.

Professor Toby Spribille, co-senior author.
Associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
Spribille, Canada Research Chair in Symbiosis, is referring to Australia’s famed Linnaean classification system-defying monotremes — which produce milk and have nipples, but lay eggs — that were the source of debate as to whether they were even real.

Using DNA-based dating techniques, the team found that this new class of fungi, called Lichinomycetes, descended from a single origin 300 million years ago, or 240 million years before the extinction of dinosaurs.

David Díaz-Escandón, who performed the research as part of his PhD thesis, explains that these “oddball” fungi were previously sprinkled across seven different classes — a high-level grouping that in animals would be equivalent to the groups called mammals or reptiles.

Working with a team of researchers from seven countries to get material from the fungi, he sequenced 30 genomes and found that all classes but one descended from a single origin.

They were classified, but they were classified into such different parts of the fungal side of the tree of life that people never suspected they were related to each other.

David Díaz-Escandón, lead author
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
These fungi include forms as varied as earth tongues — eerie tongue-shaped fungi that shoot up vertically out of the ground — beetle gut microbes, and a fungus found in tree sap in northern Alberta. They also include some unusual lichens that survive in extreme habitats such as South America’s Atacama Desert, the driest non-polar desert in the world.

Based on their genomes, which are small compared with those of other fungi, the team predicts that this group of fungi depend on other organisms for life.

[Professor Spribille] notes the new research will be important to the broader study of fungal evolution, specifically how fungi inherit important biotechnological features such as enzymes that break down plant matter.

The new group also could be a source of new information about past fungal extinctions.

The new research appears online in the journal Current Biology.
Diverse Lichinomycetes
Figure 3. Lifestyle diversity of Lichinomycetes
  1. Stegobium paniceum beetle host of Symbiotaphrinabuchneri (photo by Nikolai Vladimirov).
  2. Candelina submexicana, a lichen from rocks in Mexico.
  3. Sarea resinae, a fungus on conifer resin in boreal forests.
  4. Geoglossum glabrum, an earth-tongue of Sphagnum bogs (photo by Jozef Pavlík).
  5. Chaenotheca chrysocephala, a “pin lichen” of ancient forests.
  6. Pycnora praestabilis, a lichen on wood in the Alps.
  7. Vezdaea aestivalis, a lichen on plant detritus in the Rocky Mountains.
  8. Piccolia ochrophora, a lichen on poplar bark in British Columbia, Canada.
  9. Lichina confinis, a lichen on seashore rocks in western Scotland.
Photos by the authors except where indicated.
Source: Díaz-Escandón, D.; Tagirdzhanova, G.; Vanderpool, D., et al (2022)
Copyright: © 2022 The authors.
Published by Elsevier Inc. Open access. (CC BY 4.0)
In the highlights and summary of their paper in Current Biology the authors say:
  • Sampling gaps in uncultured non-model fungi are filled using metagenomics
  • Numerous putative early-diverging Ascomycota lineages resolve in a novel clade
  • The clade includes lichen and insect symbionts, endophytes, and mycorrhizae
  • Fungi in this clade possess small genomes with reduced metabolic arsenals


Ascomycota account for about two-thirds of named fungal species.1 Over 98% of known Ascomycota belong to the Pezizomycotina, including many economically important species as well as diverse pathogens, decomposers, and mutualistic symbionts.2 Our understanding of Pezizomycotina evolution has until now been based on sampling traditionally well-defined taxonomic classes.3,4,5 However, considerable diversity exists in undersampled and uncultured, putatively early-diverging lineages, and the effect of these on evolutionary models has seldom been tested. We obtained genomes from 30 putative early-diverging lineages not included in recent phylogenomic analyses and analyzed these together with 451 genomes covering all available ascomycete genera. We show that 22 of these lineages, collectively representing over 600 species, trace back to a single origin that diverged from the common ancestor of Eurotiomycetes and Lecanoromycetes over 300 million years BP. The new clade, which we recognize as a more broadly defined Lichinomycetes, includes lichen and insect symbionts, endophytes, and putative mycorrhizae and encompasses a range of morphologies so disparate that they have recently been placed in six different taxonomic classes. To test for shared hidden features within this group, we analyzed genome content and compared gene repertoires to related groups in Ascomycota. Regardless of their lifestyle, Lichinomycetes have smaller genomes than most filamentous Ascomycota, with reduced arsenals of carbohydrate-degrading enzymes and secondary metabolite gene clusters. Our expanded genome sample resolves the relationships of numerous “orphan” ascomycetes and establishes the independent evolutionary origins of multiple mutualistic lifestyles within a single, morphologically hyperdiverse clade of fungi.

So, not only do we find the TOE providing the basis for understanding the genetic evidence, but we also see evidence of evolution by loss of genetic information. The latter is commonplace in symbionts and parasites, despite Creationist insistence that it can't happen.

Life must be so difficult for Creationist frauds having to protect their victims from all the evidence that refutes their cult's central dogmas. They must be relieved that their dupes are such willing fools.

Thank you for sharing!

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