Phylogeography of northern tropical Australian macrofungi

Project summary

Few studies on the origins of Australian macrofungi have been published. Active collecting in Queensland and Western Australia over the past five years has led to the discovery of novel species and evidence of links between northern tropical and southern Australian macrofungi, but also to SE Asian species groups. While collections from southern Australia are fairly extensive, those from western and central northern tropical Australia are still sparse. This project aims to provide the first comprehensive analysis of patterns in the distribution of northern tropical Australian macrofungi, their species diversity and phylogeography through molecular analyses of samples collected during two planned expeditions for macrofungi to the Northern Territory. 

The first of two planned field expeditions to Northern Territory (around Darwin) took place between January 19 – February 2 during the rainy season. Our team made 424 collections of fungi (estimated at ~280 species), nearly quadrupling the number of recorded collections from this region. We are currently sequencing the accepted fungal barcode regions of ITS and LSU rDNA from these collections. These data will allow us to more accurately assess and compare the biodiversity of macrofungi from this region to other regions of Australia and Asia. Additional multi-locus datasets will be generated for specific focal taxon groups to more accurately assess their phylogeographic structuring.

Preliminary results from this project show that

  • Tropical fungal diversity in Australia is high
  • Many lineages of fungi in southern Australia are also present in northern Australia
  • A number of ectomycorrhizal genera (e.g. Amanita, Cantherellus, Cortinarius) appear to be more common and diverse in tropical Australia than expected

Project team

  • Gregory Bonito (Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne)
  • Teresa Lebel (Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne; Landcare Research, New Zealand)
  • Matthew Barrett (King’s Park and Botanic Garden)

Support

  • Helen McLellan Research Grant