Playing a variety of roles in ecosystems, mushroom-forming fungi (Agaricomycetes) are the most diverse and complex group within the fungal kingdom, with more than 20,000 described species.
In this paper, researchers from institutions in 19 countries present a new, comprehensive megaphylogeny of mushroom-forming fungi, comprising 5,284 species of which more than 1,200 species were specifically sampled as part of the study.
The resulting phylogeny revealed a major class-wide species radiation in the Jurassic, coinciding with angiosperm expansions. Several clade-specific adaptive radiations also took place, offering an explanation for mushroom genera with thousands of species.
Using GBIF-mediated mushroom occurrences, the authors found the highest speciation rates in the temperate zone, contrasting with the latitudinal diversity gradient observed in plants and animals, for which diversity tends to be higher in the tropics.
The classic toadstool morphology is associated with increased rates of lineage diversification and thus appears to have been a key innovation in the evolution of mushroom-forming fungi, shaping the extant diversity of the class.