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Auriscalpium vulgare by Laszlo Nagy
Auriscalpium vulgare by Laszlo Nagy

As part of the 1000 Fungal Genomes Project, we have sequenced the genome of Auriscalpium vulgare, a species commonly found in pine forests decomposing pine cones. The genus Auriscalpium belongs to the order Russulales, a diverse order with a very interesting early evolution – exemplified by a high diversity of both morphology and nutritional mode in early diverging groups, which converges onto a mostly ectomycorrhizal lifestyle and agaricoid morphology in more derived groups. Auriscalpium is one of the genera that make the early evolution of this order so interesting to mycologists. Both its habitat specialization and its morphology made it an important target for genome sequencing. It inhabits pine cones, a rare and remarkable habitat for fungi because of its extractive composition and fungitoxic compounds – probably requiring a unique set of genes for neutralizing harmful decomposition intermediates.

Fruiting bodies of Auriscalpium have a lateral stipe, which represents an important stepping-stone towards the well-known agaricoid morphology, i.e. fruiting bodies with cap and stipe. Further, the spore-bearing surface (hymenium) of this species is composed of cylindrical pointed teeth (see inlet picture), a hymenium conformation that is relatively rarely seen in fungi. The genome of this species fills an important gap in studying the evolutionary development of fruiting body morphologies and that of the spore-producing surface in Fungi.