Classifying Fungi

What are some of the most recent classifications of fungi?

English author Beatrix Potter (1866–1943), perhaps best known for having written The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902, began drawing and painting fungi in 1888. She eventually completed a collection of almost 300 detailed watercolors, which are now in the Armitt Library in Ambleside, England. In 1897, she prepared a scientific paper on the germination of Agaricineae spores for a meeting of the Linnean Society of London. Although Potter’s findings were originally rejected, experts now consider her ideas correct.

Classifying fungi is not an easy task—especially because of the number of different species, findings thanks to DNA sequencing, and new methods used by scientists to study the fungi. The following lists two of the most recent classifications, both based on (as most fungi classifications) the reproductive spore a fungus produces. And although both these lists will no doubt change as more studies are made, these are the terms you would see when exploring the world of fungi (for example, in 2011, a potentially new phyla—Cryptomycota—was suggested).

One classification system developed in 2007 has four main groups (phyla): Ascomycota (sac fungi, with spores called ascospores), Basidiomycota (club fungi, with spores called basiodiospores), Chytridiomycota, and Zygomycota (bread molds, with spores called zygospores); a few years later, a group was taken out of the Zygomycota and named the phyla Glomeromycota, and the phyla Microspordia was also named. In yet another classification, fungi are divided into about ten phyla—the same names, but new phyla added: Chytridiomycota, Monoblepharidiomycota, Neocallimastigomycota, Blastocladiomycota, Microsporida, Zygomycota 1, Zygomycota 2, Endomophthorales, Glomeromycota, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota. Of all the phyla in this classification, the Ascomycota have the most species (around 64,163 species); next in line are the Basidiomycota (with 31,515 species), then Micorspordia (with 1,300 species). The lowest number of species is in the phyla Neocallimastigomycota (with twenty species).


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