This page is written near the beginning of our fungal enterprise, and without sufficient research to justify any claim to independent judgment in the matter. Accordingly, we have taken the Tree of Life phylogeny more or less as given. ToL's arrangement is moderately complete for the Basidiomycota, but short-changes the Ascomycota, or sac fungi. Since the ascomycotes represent 75% of known fungal species, we feel constrained to do better. Fortunately, the online journal Myconet is devoted to the precise subject of ascomycote phylogeny. Unlike most journals, it attempts to build a consensus, and a consensus tree, in a progressive fashion. Theirs is a somewhat Linnean tree, but we have arranged things to correspond to the trees reported in Mycophylogenyby Derek Peršoh. Additional bits and pieces were assembled from Vandenkoornhuyser et al. (2002). We've made a completely unsupported guess as to the branching order of Christianseniales and Trichosporonales within Tremellomycetidae. Recently, we rearranged the Ascomycetes following Liu & Hall (2004). When these ingredients are thoroughly mixed and incubated for 600 My at about 293° K, the result looks a like this.
ATW041111. Last revision ATW051223. Public domain. No rights reserved.
ATW041111. Public domain. No rights reserved. Last revised ATW051223.
"Do you have any hobbies?"
"I collect mold, spores, and fungus."
-- Ghostbusters ( 1984)
The fungal cladogram brings home the point that each of the major regions of phylospace has created its own scientific culture. Our brief encounter with fungal phylogeny suggests that mycologists are very polite to one another. Nowhere else would an entire scientific community attempt to construct a phylogeny on a collaborative basis. Phylogenetic discussions among mycologists seem to go out of their way to mix concepts from Linnean, cladistic, and molecular phylogenies in an effort to show that all paradigms can be reconciled.
Protistologists also tend to be quite accommodating in phylogenetic matters. However, that is the courtesy of indifference. Many protistologists either don't care about phylogenetic matters, or don't believe that the major phylogenetic issues have any solution in their part of phylospace. Sadly, they may be correct. Mycologists, however, do seem to care about phylogeny. Yet the dynamic among mycologists is nothing like the eternal, vicious rapier duel of vertebrate workers, who are inclined to shift paradigms aggressively every few months just to keep each other off balance. Nor yet are the mycologists like the paleobotanists. The plant folk tend to be rather ... vague. Their writing often suggests an underlying vitalism, as if the evolution of plants were some semi- conscious, concerted effort by the entire chlorophyll b community to advance from grade to grade. No, the mycologists can't be accused of that philosophical bent. Yet the idea that "if we all agree, we must have the right answer," also seems passing strange.
This mind-set, and the passion for consensus, becomes more understandable in historical perspective. Mycology was historically a minor branch of botany, and most fungi were classified in form-taxa, without even the pretense of phylogeny. Furthermore, since these were utilitarian form-taxa, overlapping and inconsistent systems of nomenclature were introduced freely. Thus, by the time that mycology finally obtained its long and messy divorce from the botany, fungal taxonomy was in a state of near chaos. A system of collective decision-making was necessary to bring scientific rationality to the subject. It will be interesting to see how that cultural influence plays out, now that the main outlines of fungal phylogeny are almost complete.
"Back off, man! I'm a scientist!"
-- Ghostbusters ( 1984)
We have, of course, grossly exaggerated some minor peculiarities of mycology in order to make an interesting essay out of a few cheap shots at people we don't even know. Fortunately, there is one good thing that can be said for consensus phylogenies. They certainly make life easier for those of us who normally must struggle to chose from among competing trees. So, who are we to question this good fortune?
ATW041111. Public domain. No rights reserved.