What Defines the "Kingdom" Fungi?

Thomas A. Richards, Guy Leonard, Jeremy G. Wideman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The application of environmental DNA techniques and increased genome sequencing of microbial diversity, combined with detailed study of cellular characters, has consistently led to the reexamination of our understanding of the tree of life. This has challenged many of the definitions of taxonomic groups, especially higher taxonomic ranks such as eukaryotic kingdoms. The Fungi is an example of a kingdom which, together with the features that define it and the taxa that are grouped within it, has been in a continual state of flux. In this article we aim to summarize multiple lines of data pertinent to understanding the early evolution and definition of the Fungi. These include ongoing cellular and genomic comparisons that, we will argue, have generally undermined all attempts to identify a synapomorphic trait that defines the Fungi. This article will also summarize ongoing work focusing on taxon discovery, combined with phylogenomic analysis, which has identified novel groups that lie proximate/adjacent to the fungal clade-wherever the boundary that defines the Fungi may be. Our hope is that, by summarizing these data in the form of a discussion, we can illustrate the ongoing efforts to understand what drove the evolutionary diversification of fungi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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