Using a new method based on searching for DNA in soil samples, researchers from Uppsala University discovered the existence of two previously unknown but very common types of fungi. They are believed to have a key function in the ecosystem, but their exact role remains to be seen. The research is published in the IMA Fungus journal.
For most people, the word “mushroom” is associated with something like a chanterelle or fly agaric, which can be seen stretching out of the ground. However, mushrooms often do not form distinct fruiting bodies and are not conspicuous. Like recently discovered mushrooms. Invisible to the naked eye, they are nevertheless common in the forest soils of Northern and Central Europe. This conclusion was made by scientists based on DNA analysis in soil samples.
The discovery of such “invisible” species is possible thanks to a method that relies on the extraction of both long DNA sequences (to investigate the relationships between species) and short ones to get an idea of how common the species are.
“Our data shows that the detected fungi are two closely related but different species that compete for resources in the soil. One wins this competition and dominates the organic soil. We named it Archaeorhizomyces victor (Latin victoria – “victory”). In second place we have Archaeorhizomyces secundus, ”explains Anna Rosling of the Department of Ecology and Genetics at Uppsala University, who led the work.
Where the two species coexist – in the soil and roots of mixed and coniferous forests – Archaeorhizomyces victor prevails in humus-rich soil. A little deeper in the ground, where the soil contains less nutrients, the victor “feels bad” and secundus does not interfere with the spread.
These species belong to the Archaeorhizomycetes class, a group of ancient fungal root endophytes: fungi that colonize the root tissue of plants from the inside and live in symbiosis with the host, improving plant productivity without causing obvious harm.
Thanks to these two newly discovered fungi, the number of known Archaeorhizomycetes species has doubled. Even more important, the researchers believe they have developed a method for identifying new species. It does not depend on the cultivation or discovery of the fruiting body of the mushrooms.