Research

    Donald H. Pfister

pic_pfister_umbrella.jpg

         Pfister CV




Our lab group does research in the area of fungal biology in which we study taxonomy, life histories, and systematics – particularly of fungi in the Pezizomycetes, the Orbiliomycetes and recently in the Laboulbeniomycetes.  We are interested in the relationships among the members of these groups, their geographic distribution, and the associations of these fungi with other organisms.  Prof. Pfister has conducted research on topics related to documentation of collections and collectors of natural history specimens; particularly in relationship to the rich and varied collections at Harvard.  Our fieldwork ranges from collecting locally to southern South America.

Recent Publications

New species of Pseudosperma (Agaricales, Inocybaceae) from Pakistan revealed by morphology and multi-locus phylogenetic reconstruction

Saba, M., et al., 2020. New species of Pseudosperma (Agaricales, Inocybaceae) from Pakistan revealed by morphology and multi-locus phylogenetic reconstruction. MycoKeys , (69) , pp. 1-31. Publisher's VersionAbstract
During fungal surveys between 2012 and 2014 in pine-dominated forests of the western Himalayas in Pakistan, several collections of Pseudosperma (Agaricales, Inocybaceae) were made. These were documented, based on morphological and molecular data. During this work, three new species came to light, which are here formally described as Pseudosperma brunneoumbonatumP. pinophilum and P. triacicularis. These species belong in the genus Pseudosperma fide Matheny et al (2019) = Pseudosperma clade fide Matheny (2005) = Inocybe sect. Rimosae s.s. fide Larsson et al. (2009). Macro- and micro-morphological descriptions, illustrations and molecular phylogenetic reconstructions of the studied taxa are provided. The new species are differentiated from their close relatives by basidiospore size and colouration of basidiomata. Molecular phylogenetic relationships are inferred using ITS (ITS1–5.8S–ITS2), nrLSU and mtSSU sequence data. All three newly-described taxa likely share an ectomycorrhizal association with trees in the genus Pinus. In addition, five names are recombined in InospermaMallocybe and Pseudosperma. These are Inosperma vinaceobrunneumMallocybe erratumPseudosperma alboflavellumPseudosperma friabile and Pseudosperma neglectum.
Read more

Orbilia jesu-laurae (Ascomycota, Orbiliomycetes), a new species of neotropical nematode-trapping fungus from Puerto Rico, supported by morphology and molecular phylogenetics

L., Q., et al., 2020. Orbilia jesu-laurae (Ascomycota, Orbiliomycetes), a new species of neotropical nematode-trapping fungus from Puerto Rico, supported by morphology and molecular phylogenetics. Willdenowia: Annals of the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , 50 (2) , pp. 241-251. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Orbilia jesu-laurae is a new species of nematode-trapping fungus found on decorticated angiosperm wood in a tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico. The single specimen was studied from fresh apothecia and cultures. Morphology was studied and phylogenetic analysis (rDNA: ITS and LSU) was conducted using both sexual and asexual morphs. Nematodes were added to cultures to verify the formation and morphology of the trapping structures. Our results show that the species is in the Arthrobotrys clade, the phylogenetically closest relative being a possibly Mexican genotype with unknown morphology, erroneously referred to as Arthrobotrys musiformis in GenBank. Macro- and micromorphological, ecological and biogeographic data are provided along with a discussion of closely related species.
Read more

Laboulbeniomycetes: Evolution, natural history, and Thaxter’s final word

Blackwell, M., Haelewaters, D. & Pfister, D.H., 2020. Laboulbeniomycetes: Evolution, natural history, and Thaxter’s final word. Mycologia , 112. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Historically, thallus-forming Laboulbeniomycetes, including the orders Laboulbeniales and Herpomycetales, were set apart because of their distinctive morphology and ecology. Although some biologists correctly interpreted these arthropod ectoparasites as fungi, even ascomycetes, others thought they were worms, red algae, or members of taxa described especially for them. Speculation on the evolution of the group involving red algae, the morphology-based Floridean Hypothesis, persisted deep into the 20th century, in part because valid alternatives were not presented. Although the distinctive features of Laboulbeniales clearly set them apart from other fungi, the difficulty was in the absence of characters grouping them among the fungi. Thaxter considered the Laboulbeniales to be ascomycetes, but he avoided phylogenetic discussions involved in the Floridean Hypothesis all of his life. Eventually, developmental studies of the life history of Pyxidiophora species, hyphal perithecial ascomycetes with 2-celled ascospores, revealed characters connecting Laboulbeniales to other ascomycetes. The distinctive morphological features of Laboulbeniales (absence of mycelium, a thallus developed from 2-celled ascospores by cell divisions in several planes, arthropod parasitism) can be best understood by comparison with Pyxidiophora. The development of a 3-dimensional thallus composed of true parenchyma occurs not only in Laboulbeniales, but also in Pyxidiophora species. The life history of arthropod ectoparasitism of Laboulbeniales as well as mycoparasitism and phoretic dispersal by arthropods of Pyxidiophora species can be explained by Tranzschel’s Law, originally applied to rust fungi. Molecular analyses including other arthropod-associated fungi have contributed to a better understanding of an enlarged class, Laboulbeniomycetes, which now includes a clade comprising Chantransiopsis, Tetrameronycha, and Subbaromyces. A two-locus phylogenetic tree highlights evolutionary and life history questions with regard to the placement of Herpomycetales as the first diverging lineage of the Laboulbeniomycetes. The sister group for all the Laboulbeniomycetes remains to be discovered.
Read more

Sareomycetes cl. nov.: A new proposal for placement of the resinicolous genus Sarea (Ascomycota, Pezizomycotina)

Beimforde, C., et al., 2020. Sareomycetes cl. nov.: A new proposal for placement of the resinicolous genus Sarea (Ascomycota, Pezizomycotina). Fungal Systematics and Evolution , 6. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Full citation: Beimforde, C., Schmidt, A.R., Rikkinen, J. and J.K. Mitchell. 2020. Sareomycetes cl. nov.: A new proposal for placement of the resinicolous genus Sarea (Ascomycota, Pezizomycotina). Fungal Systematics and Evolution.

Resinicolous fungi constitute a heterogeneous assemblage of fungi that live on fresh and solidified plant resins. The genus Sarea includes, according to current knowledge, two species, S. resinae and S. difformis. In contrast to other resinicolous discomycetes, which are placed in genera also including non-resinicolous species, Sarea species only ever fruit on resin. The taxonomic classification of Sarea has proven to be difficult and currently the genus, provisionally and based only on morphological features, has been assigned to the Trapeliales (Lecanoromycetes). In contrast, molecular studies have noted a possible affinity to the Leotiomycetes. Here we review the taxonomic placement of Sarea using sequence data from seven phylogenetically informative DNA regions including ribosomal (ITS, nucSSU, mtSSU, nucLSU) and protein-coding (rpb1rpb2mcm7) regions.

We combined available and new sequence data with sequences from major Pezizomycotina classes, especially Lecanoromycetes and Leotiomycetes, and assembled three different taxon samplings in order to place the genus Sarea within the Pezizomycotina. Based on our data, none of the applied phylogenetic approaches (Bayesian Inference, Maximum Likelihood and Maximum Parsimony) supported the placement of Sarea in the Trapeliales or any other order in the Lecanoromycetes. A placement of Sarea within the Leotiomycetes is similarly unsupported. Based on our data, Sarea forms an isolated and highly supported phylogenetic lineage within the "Leotiomyceta". From the results of our multilocus phylogenetic analyses we propose here a new class, order, and family, SareomycetesSareales and Sareaceae in the Ascomycota to accommodate the genus Sarea. The genetic variability within the newly proposed class suggests that it is a larger group that requires further infrageneric classification.

Read more
More