Using a Five-Gene Phylogeny to Test Morphology-Based Hypotheses of Smittium and Allies, Endosymbiotic Gut Fungi (Harpellales) Associated with Arthropods

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Smittium, one of the first described genera of gut fungi, is part of a larger group of endosymbiotic microorganisms (Harpellales) that live predominantly in the digestive tracts of aquatic insects. As a diverse and species-rich taxon, Smittium has helped to advance our understanding of the gut fungi, in part due to the relative success of attempts to culture species of Smittium as compared to other members of Harpellales. Approximately 40% of the 81 known species of Smittium have been cultured. This is the first Smittiummultigene dataset and phylogenetic analysis, using the 18S and 28S rRNA genes, as well as RPB1, RPB2, and MCM7 translated protein sequences. Several well-supported clades were recovered within Smittium.One includes the epitype S. mucronatum (the “True Smittium” clade), and another contains many species including S. simulii and S. orthocladii (the “Parasmittium” clade). Ancestral states were reconstructed for holdfast shape, thallus branching type, as well as asexual (trichospore) and sexual (zygospore) spore morphology. Two of these characters, holdfast shape and trichospore morphology, supported the split of the two main clades revealed by the molecular phylogeny, suggesting these are natural clades and these traits may have evolutionary and perhaps ecological significance.


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