How many fungi?

Colin A. B. Davidson cabd2 at
Wed Sep 5 05:59:49 EST 2001

"Daniel B. Wheeler" <dwheeler at> wrote in message
news:6dafee1b.0109010714.23c083f0 at
> BTW, the above total may sound overestimated by some. But when such
> things as rusts, smuts, ectomycorrhizae, endomycorrhizae, soil, and
> compost actinomycetes are added,

Whoah there!

Sorry to seem a pedant, but the actinomycetes are bacteria, not fungi :-)

>it doesn't seem an overestimate (at
> least to me) at all. Then you have the newly discovered endophytic
> fungi, found inside the living leaves of trees and plants, only a few
> of which have ever been examined to date... I remember reading about
> some 40-60 endophytic fungi being found on the inside of Douglas fir
> needles in the 90's, a single tree species. Who knows how many pine
> endophytic fungi there are?

Excellent posting, Daniel. Thanks.

A couple of things to add, though.

Firstly, the total number of fungal 'species' is always going to be
impossible to evaluate, as the very concept of 'species' is difficult to
define for many of the species that reproduce primarily asexually.

Secondly, the extrapolation is based upon the total number of fungal species
present in the UK. While this is probably the best data we have for anywhere
in the world, it's still going to be an understatement of the total fungal
diversity present. Even now, flicking through copies of Kew Bulletin I find
that novel fungi are being identified in the UK. And in terms of the
microscopic fungi that have proven to be such an invaluable source of
enzymes and pharmaceuticals the 'viable non culturable' phenomenon so
familiar to bacteriologists (i.e. the organisms seem to be there but we've
no idea how to isolate them and grow them, let alone identify them) comes
into play.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the total fungal diversity of the planet
is going to be vast, quite probably exceeding this speculative total.

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