Partner 3 - University of Exeter and Natural History Museum - Achievements

Partner 3 - Drs. Tom Richards & David Bass and teams, University of Exeter and Natural History Museum, Exeter and London, UK.

P3 focused their effort on marine fungi, rhizaria (mainly basal lineages), and poorly known groups of parasites in various eukaryotic super-groups. The main achievements consist in:

  • Assessment of the diversity of fungal microbes in EU marine coastal waters. The BioMarKs data showed a low diversity of fungi in the marine water columns sampled and very few sequence clusters showing wider provenance across multiple sites.
  • Using high-throughput microscopy detection of fungal cells in combination with sequence data we demonstrated low abundance of fungi in the marine water column but provided some evidence for localized fungal blooms.
  • Our analysis identified a statistically significant increase in fungal biodiversity in EU marine sediments when compared to biodiversity in the water column (see Fig. 3).
  • Environmental sequencing identified a previously uncharacterized group encompassing a vast diversity of microbial forms and likely representing one of the deepest branches in the tree of fungal life. Using a combination of microscopy techniques we identified some of the cellular characteristics of this group.
  • Environmental sequencing identified a previously undetected diversity of Perkinsea parasites in marine sediments.

Figure 3. A. Comparative abundance of fungal ribosomal OTUs retrieved from DNA and RNA survey of total protistan biodiversity. B. Average relative abundance of fungal ribosomal sequences amongst all eukaryotes according to RNA and DNA-based surveys.

  • A comprehensive phylogenetic survey of vampyrellid amoebae (Cercozoa) across BioMarKs sample types unveiled a huge diversity of these organisms previously unrecognised from marine environments.
  • Screening of BioMarKs DNA samples and mining databases showed that some demonstrably abundant and highly diverse protists, both free-living (Reticulamoeba) and parasitic (haplosporidia, mikrocytids) are rare or even totally missing from general eukaryote molecular PCR surveys.
  • Expansion of knowledge of diversity and ecology of parasite groups - haplosporidia, other Ascetosporea, and Microsporidia, using BioMarKs-generation DNA and RNA samples.
  • Group-specific survey of DRIPs (Ichthyosporea) in collaboration with Dr. del Campo in marine and non-marine habitats, using BioMarKs data/samples as key marine representatives.