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Evolution of Reproductive Morphology in Leaf Endophytes


The endophytic lifestyle has played an important role in the evolution of the morphology of reproductive structures (body) in one of the most problematic groups in fungal classification, the Leotiomycetes (Ascomycota). Mapping fungal morphologies to two groups in the Leiotiomycetes, the Rhytismatales and Hemiphacidiaceae reveals significant divergence in body size, shape and complexity. Mapping ecological roles to these taxa reveals that the groups include endophytic fungi living on leaves and saprobic fungi living on duff or dead wood. Finally, mapping of the morphologies to ecological roles reveals that leaf endophytes produce small, highly reduced fruiting bodies covered with fungal tissue or dead host tissue, while saprobic species produce large and intricate fruiting bodies. Intriguingly, resemblance between asexual conidiomata and sexual ascomata in some leotiomycetes implicates some common developmental pathways for sexual and asexual development in these fungi.

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