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Taxonomy Introduction

Fungi are largely microscopic. Their forms diverge in only minor ways right the way across the Kingdom. Their developmental processes are difficult to study meaning that past technologies resulting in a limited understanding of the Kingdom. Even so, a huge diversity of fungi has been described. An even larger diversity is becoming evident through the use of molecular analyses of the fungi in the laboratory from cultures, and various common and uncommon substrates.

Plants and animals have been examined in much greater detail than fungi. However, the use of molecular and developmental tools is enabling greater focus on the fungi. One result of this focus is that the taxonomy of the fungi is being revised at all levels. The Fungal Tree of Life is taking a top down approach, and industrial mycology is forcing a bottom-up approach.

The result to date of FTL is that the overarching arrangement of the Fungi has been revised. The main groups remaining include Basidiomycota, Ascomycota and Glomeromycota. The other divisions are in a state of change. New divisions will be described to accommodate the information arising from the detailed examination of a spread of 200 species (see James et al 2006 Nature 443: 818-822).

At the other end of the spectrum, highly detailed examination of economically important fungi is resulting in an extraordinarily important understanding of the stability and diversity of fungal species and sub species. These projects have enormous ramifications for how we develop the new taxonomy of the fungi. Stay tuned for the ride of your life.

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