ZyGoLife project launched
Zygomycetes comprise ancient lineages of Fungi that include plant symbionts, animal and human pathogens, and decomposers of a wide variety of organic compounds. Zygomycetes are thought to be among the first terrestrial organisms and symbiotic associations with zygomycetes apparently facilitated the origin of land plants. They represent one of the earliest origins of multicellularity and the filamentous body plan and polar cell growth that characterize most species of fungi. Zygomycete fungi are also used in numerous industrial processes (e.g., organic acid production) and fermentation of foods (e.g., tempeh, soy sauce). Despite these critical ecological roles, key morphological innovations, and importance to human civilization, this group of fungi remains understudied and little is understood about their evolutionary relationships. ZyGoLife will resolve the evolutionary relationships through integration of numerous types of data, including genome sequencing and analyses, discovery and description of zygomycete fossils, development of enhanced tools for detecting zygomycetes in the environment, and elucidation of novel morphological characteristics through state-of-the-art bioimaging. In addition, the project will develop educational resources for schools and the general public in order to highlight the importance of this poorly known group of Fungi.