When a research team started analysing the genetics of micro-organisms from their university pond, they might have expected to find a couple of new species. Instead, they discovered a group of fungi that could double the size of that biological kingdom1.
Thomas Richards, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Exeter, UK, and his colleagues have called the fungi the cryptomycota, or 'hidden fungi', because they have remained undiscovered until now, despite being present in common environments. Mycologists usually study fungi that can be grown in the lab, and Richards says that this has given them a biased understanding of fungal diversity. By looking at environmental samples, his team has rewritten the fungal evolutionary tree. The results are published today in Nature.
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