17 May 2011

Missing link found in West Country

The BBC reports that scientists have identified what may be the "missing link" living free and well in the West Country just outside Exeter.

Much to the chagrin of those who like to make cheap jokes about yokels, cider an incest (and much to the relief of those of us who find such jokes pathetic), the missing link in question connects fungi to plants, animals and bacteria.

Dr Meredith Jones of Exeter University outlined the structures and properties of a primitive type of fungus that they name cryptomycota, or "hidden fungi".

"They are the oldest currently known of the fungal group and they represent the missing link between fungi and the rest of the kingdom of life," Dr Jones said. "DNA studies show that it was around this point that fungi diverged, so this will tell us a lot about how they evolved."

The discovery has already thrown up one surprising finding. The group lacks what until now scientists had thought was a defining feature of fungi: a rigid cell wall that is used to feed.

The indications are that cryptomycota is an incredibly diverse group, according to Dr Jones. "From the mushrooms we find at the shops, the yeast that we use to bake bread and brew beer, to the mould that's growing in the bathroom - you can see how diverse the fungi we already know about are. This new group is just as diverse, and so its discovery doubles our currently known understanding of the fungal kingdom."

Researchers had already known about this group of fungi from DNA-based techniques. But the Nature-reported study is the first time that a team has learned what cryptomycota actually look like by using advanced microscopic techniques.

Deciphering the group's shape and structure should help scientists understand better what this particular group of fungi do in the environment.]

Well there you have it. It goes to show that you don’t have to go to far flung places to discover life forms that are new to science. I wonder what lurks in the back garden, apart from four well fed cats...


susan said...

But what are they like in an omelette?

jams o donnell said...

Now that is the final question Susan!