The motile cells of chytrids were once believed to be relics from the time before the colonization of land by fungi. However, the majority of chytrids had not been found in marine but freshwater environments. We investigated fungal diversity by a fungal-specific PCR-based analysis of environmental DNA in deep-sea methane cold-seep sediments, identifying a total of 35 phylotypes, 12 of which were early diverging fungi (basal fungi, ex ‘lower fungi’). The basal fungi occupied a major portion of fungal clones. These were phylogenetically placed into a deep-branching clade of fungi and the LKM11 clade that was a divergent group comprised of only environmental clones from aquatic environments. As suggested by Lara and colleagues, species of the endoparasitic genus Rozella, being recently considered of the earliest branching taxa of fungi, were nested within the LKM11 clade. In the remaining 23 phylotypes identified as the Dikarya, the majority of which were similar to those which appeared in previously deep-sea studies, but also highly novel lineages associated with Soil Clone Group I (SCGI), Entorrhiza sp. and the agaricomycetous fungi were recorded. The fungi of the Dikarya may play a role in the biodegradation of lignin and lignin-derived materials in deep-sea, because the characterized fungal species related to the frequent phylotypes within the Dikarya have been reported to possess an ability to degrade lignin.
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