Well that explains a lot about people…
Seems recent work on cladistics and both cellular structures and genetic change over time have resulted in Mushrooms (and the other fungi) being moved away from plants and in with animals in the group of Opisthokont. (In broken Latin “stick up your butt”…)
The opisthokonts (Greek: ὀπίσθιος (opísthios) = “rear, posterior” + κοντός (kontós) = “pole” i.e. “flagellum”) are a broad group of eukaryotes, including both the animal and fungus kingdoms. The opisthokonts, previously called the “Fungi/Metazoa group”, are generally recognized as a clade. Opisthokonts together with Apusomonadida and Breviata comprise the larger clade Obazoa.
It seems that the major division in evolution was when the single flagellum eucaryotes diverged from the ones with 2 flagella. (Thus animal sperm having just one flagellum is a reprise of our origins…) In general, it looks like we evolved from a group of critters that were scavengers and predators. Oh Joy…
Of course, it would be a Smith who put us there…
Flagella and other characteristics
A common characteristic of opisthokonts is that flagellate cells, such as the sperm of most animals and the spores of the chytrid fungi, propel themselves with a single posterior flagellum. It is this feature that gives the group its name. In contrast, flagellate cells in other eukaryote groups propel themselves with one or more anterior flagella. However, in some opisthokont groups, including most of the fungi, flagellate cells have been lost.
Opisthokonts characteristics include synthesis of extracellular chitin in exoskeleton, cyst/spore wall, or cell wall of filamentous growth and hyphae; the extracellular digestion of substrates with osmotrophic absorption of nutrients; and other cell biosynthetic and metabolic pathways. Genera at the base of each clade are amoeboid and phagotrophic.
The close relationship between animals and fungi was suggested by Thomas Cavalier-Smith in 1987, who used the informal name opisthokonta (the formal name has been used for the chytrids by Copeland in 1956), and was supported by later genetic studies.
Early phylogenies placed fungi near the plants and other groups that have mitochondria with flat cristae, but this character varies. More recently, it has been said that holozoa (animals) and holomycota (fungi) are much more closely related to each other than either is to plants, because opisthokonts have a triple fusion of carbamoyl phosphate synthetase, dihydroorotase, and aspartate carbamoyltransferase that is not present in plants, and plants have a fusion of thymidylate synthase and dihydrofolate reductase not present in the opisthokonts. Animals and fungi are also more closely related to amoebas than they are to plants, and plants are more closely related to the SAR supergroup of protists than they are to animals or fungi. Animals and fungi are both heterotrophs, unlike plants, and while fungi are sessile like plants, there are also sessile animals.
Cavalier-Smith and Stechmann argue that the uniciliate eukaryotes such as opisthokonts and Amoebozoa, collectively called unikonts, split off from the other biciliate eukaryotes, called bikonts, shortly after they evolved.
Opisthokonts are divided into Holomycota or Nucletmycea (fungi and all organisms more closely related to fungi than to animals) and Holozoa (animals, and all organisms more closely related to animals than to fungi); no opisthokonts basal to the Holomycota/Holozoa split have yet been identified. The Opisthokonts was largely resolved by Torriella et al. Holomycota and Holozoa are composed of the following groups
So does that mean Vegetarians can no longer eat mushrooms? Or that eating Chicken is OK ’cause they, too, are scavengers (and about as smart as a mushroom…)? Is the chicken EGG OK as it has no brain and is a single cell? But the chicken not so much as it runs around? Decisions decisions…
But Thank God for small favors, at least we are not related to the Slime Molds:
Holomycota (Fungus like)
chytrids (flagellated, zoosporic fungi)
microsporidia (previously thought to be sporozoans)
Hyaloraphidium (previously thought to be a green alga, now considered a fungus)
oomycetes (water molds) (now included in the SAR supergroup)
labyrinthulomycetes (slime nets) (now included in the SAR supergroup)
myxomycetes (now included in amoebozoans)
Though I find it a bit of a bother that we’re lumped in with “formerly considered parasitic fungi”:
Holozoa (Animal like)
Dermocystida (formerly considered parasitic fungi or sporozoans)
Ichthyophonida (formerly considered parasitic fungi incertae sedis)
Eccrinales (formerly considered trichomycetes)
Amoebidiales (formerly considered trichomycetes)
Corallochytrium (formerly considered a Heterokont)
Choanoflagellata (flagellates formerly included in protozoa)
including Myxozoa (previously considered fungi, now considered cnidarians)
Though having one of them in with us as animals is a bit distressing:
Myxozoa (etymology: Greek: μύξα myxa “slime” or “mucus” + thematic vowel o + ζῷον zoon “animals”) is a class of aquatic, obligately parasitic cnidarian animals. Over 1300 species have been described and many have a two-host lifecycle, involving a fish and an annelid worm or a bryozoan. The average size of a myxosporean spore usually ranges from 10 μm to 20 μm, whereas that of a malacosporean (a subclade of the Myxozoa) spore can be up to 2 mm. Myxozoans can live in both freshwater and marine habitats.
While the evolutionary history of myxozoans is still an active area of research, it is now understood that myxozoans are highly modified cnidarians that have undergone dramatic evolution from a free swimming, self-sufficient jellyfish-like creature into their current form of obligate parasites composed of a mere handful of cells. As myxozoans evolved into microscopic parasites, they lost many genes responsible for multicellular development, coordination, and cell-cell communication. The genomes of some myxozoans are now among the smallest genomes of any known animal species.
So our “relatives” are things like slime animals, parasites, and fungus. Sigh. And here I was bothered by the fact that all animals with teeth evolved from a “toothed worm” that was the first critter to invent teeth. It was bad enough being a glorified worm with a tooth; now I’ve got to deal with being a scavenger parasitic fungus relative. Sheesh. But at least now I know people came by their worst attributes honestly…
The Good & Useful Mushroom
What brought this on? A couple of interesting YouTube Videos about Mushrooms by a guy who’s revolutionizing several aspects of drugs, medicine, beekeeping, and maybe more. Seems ‘Shrooms have a LOT of interesting biochemistry going on, including things that stop Tuberculosis and Cancer. In some ways he’s your classical Hippy Magic Mushroom guy so some of his ideas are a bit “whacko whole earthy”, but on other things he’s quite competant, so maybe I’m just too narrow minded ;-)
Note in the first minute where he mentions mycelium making humus. Heard on the radio was a discussion of “mad cow” like prion disease spreading into the Elk and Reindeer across North America. A side point was made that “something in humus breaks down the prion” when other soils did not. Perhaps that’s the mold or mold products. At about 5 minutes he points out that fungi were the first land dwellers as they produce oxalic acid to break down rocks. Hmmmm…. shades of “liquid stone” technology… At about 8 minutes he describes turning a waste oil pile into soil using mushrooms. Want to clean up oil spills? Use his bags of mushroom spawn. At 10 minutes he gets into treatment for Tuberculosis and more, including Pox viruses. At about 15 minutes he turns cellulose into fungal sugars that then would be more easily turned to ethanol. 18 minutes:
One of the odd things is that the nuclei can wander around inside the mycelium. It’s like a network of one giant multi-nucleated cell. In this Ted talk the same guy, Stamets, covers particular mushrooms in a bit more formal way, including at about 6 minutes where he describes using mushroom extracts to control mosquitoes & flies. At 8 minutes he talks about using Turkey Tail mushrooms to increase immune response in cancer treatment. He talks about his 84 year old mother having non-operable metastasized breast cancer. Stage 4. Using Turkey Tail mushrooms with other drugs, she recovered… 11 minutes:
For anyone wanting an even more detailed view, this is a 1 hour 20 minute talk at “EcoFarm Conference” in 2017. Starts off a bit Gaia Earth Consciousness with panic mongering about the 6th Extinction Event and the end of life as we know it just around the corner, but then gets into some interesting facts about fungus and uses for fungi about 4 minutes in. Has an interesting ‘tip’ on preparing mushroom growing media – do an anerobic ferment in water that kills the aerobic contaminants, then drain and expose to air to kill the anerobic ones.
At one time I grew a batch of Oyster Mushrooms, ordered as a block of spawn on wood dowels, and enjoyed it, but attempting to move it on to other media was less successful. Now I have more clue. I’m very likely to grow some more “going forward” both because it was fun, but also because they were very tasty ;-) If they happen to have a lot of extra medicinal properties, well so much the better!
At about 8 minutes he covers some interesting history of how mushrooms contributed to keeping fire, and eventually the “punk” for early firearms. I’d not realized how we’d used mushrooms in history, other than as food.
So there you have it. A far more fascinating technology of mushrooms than I’d ever expected, and a very interesting set of uses. From here on out I’ll be buying a lot more mushrooms when grocery shopping. I made a very nice mushroom omlette the other day using some brown mushrooms from the grocery store. (i.e. not the usual white ones, but not the portabella either) Clearly I need to learn a few more names of mushroom types ;-) as I’d like to find that one again and don’t know what to ask for…
The conclusion I come to is that much of our history has been tied up with fungi for far longer and in far more depth than I’d ever known. Especially his point about all plants having the involvement of fungi in their growth, and the way bees have a lessened immune system compared to other bugs but that it gets up-regulated if / when they feed on the mushroom fungi normally found in their environment of origin. Clearly there has been co-evolution since we first split off from the fungi.