Anales del Jardín Botánico de Madrid, Vol 66, No S1 (2009)

The Mycorrhizae: a plant-fungus relation that has existed for more than 400 million years

Mario Honrubia
Departamento de Biología Vegetal (Botánica), Facultad de Biología, Campus de Espinardo. Universidad de Murcia , Spain


The concept of mycorrhiza is considered in a wide sense, as a not necessarily mutualistic symbiosis, covering the trophic relations of mycorrhizal fungi with “inferior” and achlorophyllics plants. A bibliographical review of the origin and diversification of mycorrhizae is made. The pioneering characteristics of the arbuscular mycorrhiza formed by Glomeromycota are discussed, emphasizing its importance during the terrestrialization processes. The chronological appearance of the other types of mycorrhizas is discussed. The independent and recurrent evolution of the ectomycorrhizas formed by Basidiomycota and Ascomycota is discussed; their saprobiont or parasite origin points to the versatile nutritional strategy of these fungi, in adaptative response to environmental changes, as does the origin of the singular ericoid, arbutoid and helianthemoid mycorrhizas. The particular trophic relation between achlorophyllic plants, such as Monotropa and orchids, in their heterotrophic phases, with their “mycorrhizal” fungi is also described. Finally, the recent evolution of the non mycotrophic root systems is commented on.


Mycorrhizae; origin; evolution; symbiosis

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