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The Early Terrestrial Fungal Lineage of Conidiobolus—Transition from Saprotroph to Parasitic Lifestyle

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Fungi of the Conidiobolus group belong to the family Ancylistaceae (Entomophthorales, Entomophthoromycotina, Zoopagomycota) and include over 70 predominantly saprotrophic species in four similar and closely related genera, that were separated phylogenetically recently. Entomopathogenic fungi of the genus Batkoa are very close morphologically to the Conidiobolus species. Their thalli share similar morphology, and they produce ballistic conidia like closely related entomopathogenic Entomophthoraceae. Ballistic conidia are traditionally considered as an efficient tool in the pathogenic process and an important adaptation to the parasitic lifestyle. Our study aims to reconstruct the phylogeny of this fungal group using molecular and genomic data, ancestral lifestyle and morphological features of the conidiobolus-like group and the direction of their evolution. Based on phylogenetic analysis, some species previously in the family Conidiobolaceae are placed in the new families Capillidiaceae and Neoconidiobolaceae, which each include one genus, and the Conidiobolaceae now includes three genera. Intermediate between the conidiobolus-like groups and Entomophthoraceae, species in the distinct Batkoa clade now belong in the family Batkoaceae. Parasitism evolved several times in the Conidiobolus group and Ancestral State Reconstruction suggests that the evolution of ballistic conidia preceded the evolution of the parasitic lifestyle.

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