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Cryptomycota ('hidden fungi'), or Rozellida are a clade of micro-organisms which are either fungi or a sister group to fungi. They differ from classical fungi in that they lack chitinous cell walls in the trophic stage, as reported by Jones et. al 2011. Despite their unconventional feeding habits, chitin has been observed in the inner layer of resting spores, and in immature resting spores for some species of Rozella, as indicated with calcofluor-white stain as well as the presence of a fungal-specific chitin synthase gene.[1]

The only formally described genus in the clade is Rozella, which was previously considered a chytrid. The existence of related organisms was known from environmental DNA sequences.[2]

Additional members of the group were isolated in 2011 by a team led by Thomas Richards, from the Natural History Museum in London, and also an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Exeter, UK. The team used DNA techniques to disclose the existence of unknown genetic material dredged from the university pond. Once they had a few unknown sequences they fluorescently labeled small DNA sequences and let them bind to the matching DNA in the whole sample (Fluorescence in situ hybridization). Under fluorescence microscopy, they could see that the possessor cells were ovoid in shape and 3–5 micrometres across. They then established that the cryptomycota were present in other samples taken from further freshwater environments, soils and marine sediments.[3][4][5]

The common characteristic of the clade members is that they lack the chitinous cell walls present in almost all previously discovered fungi (including microsporidia) and which are a major feature of the kingdom. Without the chitin the cryptomycota can be phagotrophic parasites that feed by attaching to, engulfing, or living inside other cells. Most known fungi feed by osmotrophy—taking in nutrients from outside the cell.[3]


  1. ^ James, TY. Berbee, ML (2011) No Jacket Required – New Fungal Lineage Defies Dress Code. Bioessays 34: 94-102
  2. ^ Lara E, Moreira D, López-García P. (2010). "The environmental clade LKM11 and Rozella form the deepest branching clade of fungi" (PDF). Protist 161 (1): 116–21. doi:10.1016/j.protis.2009.06.005. PMID 19674933. 
  3. ^ a b The evolutionary tree of fungi grows a new branch , Marian Turner , Nature online news, 11 May 2011
  4. ^ 'Missing link' fungi found in Devon pond , BBC News . By Pallab Ghosh , 11 May 2011
  5. ^ University pond reveals hidden history of fungi, May 11, 2011
  • Jones, M.D.M. et al. (2011). "Discovery of novel intermediate forms redefines the fungal tree of life". Nature 474 (7350). doi:10.1038/nature09984. 

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