Fossil mycoparasite like extant Trichoderma (2)
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wavy hyphae
The peculiar ability of the filamentous fungus Trichoderma to live as a symbiont in plants and to destroy dangerous fungi, has made its several species and strains well-known means of crop protection. Continuing research, involving molecular genetics, with the aim to further improve its performance, has yielded, in addition to results of agricultural value, the minor scientific result that the useful combination of traits must have evolved far back in time [1]. Apparently no fossil evidence of Trichoderma attacking other hyphae has been found, hence it is interesting, less commercially than scientifically, that wavy hyphae strongly resembling extant Trichoderma [2] are seen in the Lower Devonian Rhynie chert (Fig.1 and Part 1).

Fig.1: Fungus hyphae: irregularly wavy,
         apparently grown along "normal" ones.

         Width of the image 4.4mm, same scale as in Part (1).

curling hyphae

curly hyphaFig.3:  Mycoparasite (?) curling around straight hypha, detail of Fig.2.

Fig.2 (far left): Hyphae grown in a water-filled cavity, preserved in silica gel turned into chalzedony, topped with quartz; thick microbial stratum below.

The big loops, possibly in contact with a straight hypha, suggest a similar parasitic relation as with the narrow turns and waves in Fig.1. Hence it might be the same fungus or a related one. Straight and wavy parts combined seem to indicate a variable way of life. (See Rhynie Chert News 78 and Part 1, Fig.6.) Additional observations on peculiar fossil hyphae may contribute to better understanding the mycoparasitism of the useful fungus Trichoderma.

H.-J. Weiss      2017

[1] C.P. Kubicek: Comparative genome sequence analysis underscores mycoparasitism as the ancestral life style of Trichoderma. Genome Biol. 2011; 12(4): R40.
[2] Google: jgi mycocosm trichoderma virens.

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