Chapter 2: Evolutionary origins

The evolutionary origins and phylogenetics of fungi are the topic of this chapter, and we present it against the background of global evolution in the hope of improving appreciation of the timescale involved.

Reading this chapter could be the longest task you’ll have in your life as a student, because we plan to deal with all the time that has ever existed. We are doing this to provide some context to the enormous lengths of time that we have to think about when discussing the origins of one of the major eukaryotic Kingdoms. Using the most recent molecular phylogenetic analyses, we describe fungi as an ancient and successful lineage, arguably the first terrestrial eukaryotes. To do this we have to talk in billions (109) of years, and we find it difficult to envisage a billion years. It’s even less easy, given the amazing changes witnessed during a pitifully short human lifetime, to imagine the sorts of changes that can occur in a billion years.

It’s slightly easier to think in terms of fractions and percentages and to take in the lifetime of the Universe by equating a billion years to a little over 7% of the total age of the Universe, and extending that to realise that the lifetime of our Sun is about one-third of the age of the Universe.

Well, we did say only slightly easier!

From there we go on to consider planet Earth as a habitat (your habitat) and the unique series of events that make this planet (the ‘Goldilocks planet’) so suitable for the sustained evolution of life. Following discussion of the three domains that make up the tree of life, we outline the origin of Kingdom Fungi from the opisthokonts, discuss some fossil fungi and introduce the fungal phylogeny

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Give yourself a break from reading online. Buy the book and relax.

Ordering details: Moore, D., Robson, G.D. & Trinci, A.P.J. (2011). 21st Century Guidebook to Fungi. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9780521186957.

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The only place you will find the full story about the origin of life on Earth, and the part played by fungi, is in this book:

Ordering details: Fungal Biology in the Origin and Emergence of Life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 230 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1107652774.

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Updated December 23, 2016