Fungi are found in all ecosystems, and with an estimated 5 million species, they constitute the most diverse group of eukaryotic organisms on earth, second only to insects in the number of species thought to exist.
Fewer than 150,000 species, or between 3 and 10 percent, of fungi have been described so far, indicating a great deal of fungal biodiversity remains to be discovered.
Miller Mycology Lab scientists are conducting biodiversity inventories of ascomycetes—the largest known group of fungi—throughout the world. These data will greatly add to our understanding of the ecology, biogeography, and natural history of these organisms.
Phylogenetic relationships of fungi are poorly known. The Miller Mycology Lab incorporates modern molecular techniques with traditional taxonomic methods to test morphological-based classifications from the class level to the species level. In most cases, molecular phylogenies do not reflect current classifications, leading to new insights regarding character evolution in fungi.
Read more about INHS taxonomy and systematics work.
INHS scientists study fungal diseases that impact plants, animals, and insects. The Phillips Herpetology Lab, for example, assesses the prevalence and impact of the chytrid fungus chytridiomycosis on North American amphibians and ophidiomycosis, an emerging infectious disease caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, on snakes.
Read more about INHS infectious disease research.
There are more than 172,000 fungal specimens in the INHS Fungi Collection, ranking it within the top 10 largest fungaria in the United States. These specimens are from the INHS Fungarium and the University of Illinois Fungarium, as well as acquisitions from Southern Illinois University and Eastern Illinois University.The fungal collections are used in a wide variety of research, including taxonomic, systematic, biogeographic, evolutionary, genomic and ecological studies.
In 2018, collaborators from INHS, Purdue University Northwest, and the Macrofungi and Microfungi Collections Consortia published the first comprehensive checklist of North American fungi. The checklist contains 44,488 species arranged alphabetically by genus and species.