Teloschistales Project Objectives

This project has four main objectives:

Objective 1: Generate a worldwide multilocus phylogeny for the order Teloschistales.

Specific goals of Objective 1 are to:
a. Increase taxon sampling for the families Letrouitiaceae, Megalosporaceae, and Physciaceae, and from the tropics in general.
b. Provide a phylogenetic framework to reassess the currently accepted and also the putative suborders and families (including the Brigantiaeaceae) within this order.
c. Validate the phylogenomic approach of AFTOL 2 to generate new markers for fungal phylogenetics.
d. Reconstruct the evolution of two main phenotypes (growth forms and secondary metabolites) that have been determinant in shaping the current classification of the Teloschistales, especially the Teloschistaceae.
e. Reconstruct the evolution of substrate preferences in relation to land plant evolution.

The primary goals of Objective 1 is to generate a robust and comprehensive phylogenetic framework, including all generic lineages, ecotypes, and morphotypes to circumscribe all potential families within the order Teloschistales (goals 1a and b), to reconstruct the evolution of traits that have shaped (in part) the current classification within this order (goal 1d), and reconstruct the evolution of transitions to different substrates in relation to the evolution of land plants (goal 1e). This global phylogeny will be based on sequence data from five loci: nuclear ribosomal LSU, RPB1, RPB2, RET1 and mitochondrial ribosomal SSU. A broad survey of phenotypic traits will be done to reveal synapomorphies supporting the new classification we will propose at the suborder and family levels within this order. This will be compared to an in-depth phenotypic study that will be conducted within the Teloschistaceae to redefine genera within this family.

Objective 2: Generate a comprehensive phylogeny for the Teloschistaceae and an in-depth phenotypic characterization for a major taxonomic redelimitation of genera within this family.

A closer and more detailed phylogenetic study of this family is needed because previous studies have revealed the non-monophyletic status of several genera within this family, requiring a taxonomic reassessment of generic boundaries within this family. The current delimitation of most of genera being still based on phenotypic traits (such as growth forms) that have been suspected to be highly homoplastic for more than half a century, combined with the inability to recircumscribe these genera without an exhaustive and robust molecularly based phylogeny explains why no lichenologists has ventured to redefine generic delimitations for the entire family. We will use the six-locus phylogeny (ITS, nucLSU, RPB1, RPB2, RET1 and mitSSU) that will result from this objective as a roadmap to conduct a detailed and in-depth phenotypic characterization of specimens representing the geographic, phenotypic and ecological spectra within each of the 11 genera currently recognized within this family. Anthraquinones, secondary compounds responsible for the typical yellow-orange thallus color, but with unknown ecological/evolutionary significance, will be of particular interest in redefining these genera.

Objective 3: Organize a workshop on Teloschistales with an emphasis on the Teloschistineae to establish an evolutionary meaningful and globally accepted classification for this order.

We want the elaboration of this new classification to be the result of a consensus of all experts actively working on members of this order. For us to be successful, we need to be as inclusive as possible. This workshop will have as an ultimate goal the publication of this new classification..

Objective 4: Reconstruct the evolutionary history of fungal reproductive traits.

Specific goals are to:
f. Test the unidirectionality of transitions from obligate outcrossing to facultative selfing.
g. Test if asexual reproduction (soredia) can only occur in obligate outcrossing individuals.

Reconstruct the evolutionary history of fungal reproductive traits. The overarching idea of this objective is to better understand the interplay among three reproductive mechanisms (i.e., obligate outcrossing vs. facultative selfing, sexual versus asexual reproduction, and horizontal vs. vertical transmission of photobiont) in the evolution of symbiotic systems. Ultimately, we want to test the current belief that transitions between obligate outcrossing and facultative selfing is unidirectional, and test the assumed dependence of asexual reproduction on an obligate outcrossing mode of reproduction.