Marine Fungi


Marine fungi are an ecological, not a taxonomic, grouping, known primarily as saprotrophs from intertidal zones where they represent an important food source for invertebrates. These osmotrophs also play important roles as mutualists and pathogens in marine systems, and provide a wealth of antimicrobial and bioactive compounds. Currently, our knowledge of marine fungal diversity, biology and ecology comes mainly from intertidal zones such as sand beaches, saltmarshes and mangroves. However, fungi are also present in the water column and at depth, where many discoveries await. With modern molecular techniques and many marine habitats unexplored for fungi, this growing field is poised to make important contributions to our knowledge of the ecological and biogeochemical functions of the oceans. Critical to this is identifying keystone fungal players, their ecological significance, and distribution patterns.

Key Concepts

  • Marine fungi are an ecological, not a taxonomic assemblage.
  • Although intertidal saprotrophs are the most studied, fungi exist and are understudied in many marine habitats, including the water column and deep sea.
  • Many novel compounds have been isolated from marine fungi.
  • Mycologists must participate in conservation planning to protect the future of marine fungal biodiversity.
  • Marine fungi are understudied and it is estimated many new species await discovery.

Keywords: ascomycetes; biodiversity; intertidal; saprotrophy

Figure 1. Marine fungi on mangroves. (a) ascomata of Antennospora quadricornuta on wood, (b) ornamented ascospores of A. quadricornuta, (c) basidiomata of Halocyphina villosa, (d) basidiospores of H. villosa, (e) dark pigmented ascoma of Lulworthia grandispora and ascospores, (f) filiform ascospores of L. grandispora, (g) ascospore of Torpedospora radiata, (h) ascospores of Cucullosporella mangrovei. Scale bars: (a) 500 µm; (b) 35 µm; (c) 80, (d) 20 µm; (e) 250 µm; (f) 10, (g) 15 µm; (h) 40 µm.
Figure 2. Dark pigmented ascomata attached to sand grains and ornamented ascospores of marine arenicolous fungi. (a) ascospore of Arenariomyces majusculus, (b) ascoma of Corollospora maritima, (c) ascoma of Corollospora cinnanomea, (d) ascoma of Corollospora nofovusca, (e) ascospore of Corollospora pseudopulchella, (f) ascospore of Corollospora maritima, (g) ascospore of Corollospora cinnamomea, (h) ascospore of Corollospora novofusca. Scale bars: (a) 17 µm; (b) 600 µm; (c,d) 400 µm; (e) 200 µm; (f,g) 10 µm; (h) 40 µm.


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Walker, Allison K, Vélez, Patricia, and González, María C(Jul 2017) Marine Fungi. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0027209]