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Leratiomyces ceres
Photo credit: David Catcheside

Leratiomyces ceres

Leratiomyces is a genus of saprotrophic fungi in the family Strophariaceae. Leratiomyces species are commonly found growing on woodchips around garden beds and exhibit either a mushroom or truffle-like morphology. Leratiomyces ceres, commonly known as Redhead Roundhead or chip cherries, is a cosmopolitan species found in New Zealand, Australia, USA and Europe and other locations.

Saprotrophic fungi are an essential element in the global carbon cycle. They contain an array of enzymes allowing the breakdown of biopolymers. Discovering novel enzymes involved in the degradation of biopolymers may enable access to previously recalcitrant energy stocks.

Truffle-like fungi are fungi that have a closed hymenium and are unable to actively release their spores to the environment. The evolution of the truffle-like habit is thought to be a response to past climatic changes and animal grazing. The relatively high abundance of brightly coloured, epigeous truffle-like fungi in New Zealand has led to the hypothesis that that large grazing birds, like moa, may have selected for this morphology. The repeated, independent evolution of truffle-like fungi from mushroom-like ancestors has interested mycologists since these relationships became apparent.

Leratiomyces ceres is sister to the New Zealand endemic L. erythrocephalus, which has a secotioid morphology. Comparisons of the genomes and transcriptomes from L. ceres and L. erythrocephalus will help to reveal the molecular mechanisms involved in the evolutionary transition from a mushroom to a truffle-like fungus.