Orbiliomycetes, a diverse, species-rich group of inoperculate discomycetes with fascinating morphology and peculiar ecology

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Orbiliomycetes, a diverse, species-rich group of inoperculate discomycetes with fascinating morphology and peculiar ecology

Hans-Otto Baral
Hans-Otto Baral

The Orbiliomycetes are a class of ascomycetes which belongs to the first which produced ascomata. It only includes one family, Orbiliaceae, with 10 genera and around 500 described species. Among them, the genus Orbilia is presently the most species-rich with around 415 species. Morphologically, the class is characterized by very small disc- or bowl-shaped fruiting bodies, usually 0.2–2 mm in diameter, with a whitish or reddish to yellowish or rarely brown to black color, and by ascospores containing a spore body, a refractive vacuolar organelle that only occurs in this class, and by a holoblastic hyphomycetous anamorph. Ascospores, spore bodies and the conidia of the anamorph develop highly diverse shapes. Spore bodies are not persistent in herbarium material and require study when still alive. The asci are always inamyloid and capable of active spore discharge, and vary between 8- and 128-spored. The species occur worldwide on dead wood and bark but also on herbaceous and fungal substrates. Many species are drought-tolerant, therefore, the highest species numbers have been recorded in arid areas. The neglect of this ecological niche is the main reason for the high number of newly described taxa in our monograph. In addition to the saprotrophic lifestyle, catching nematodes, rotifers, amoebas and even small insects is known in some species.

Hans-Otto Baral got interested in fungi through the ‘Pilzverein Stuttgart’, a mycological association in which his father was also a member. He made his diploma on the Sarcoscypha species complex at the University of Tübingen under Franz Oberwinkler. Later he concentrated on inoperculate discomycetes and, after presenting together with German Krieglsteiner a survey of the species known in Germany, published on various genera, including a taxonomic clarification around Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the cause of the ash dieback disease. In 2016 he covered the non-lichenized discomycetes in a survey (‘syllabus’) of the families of ascomycetes. Various projects were done in collaboration with institutional and amateur colleagues world-wide. In 1992 he published a methodological paper about his so-called “vital taxonomy”, which led to the monographic study of Orbiliomycetes as an exemplification of the taxonomic importance to study fungal cells in the living state.

This event is in the "lectures" category.
Orbiliomycetes, a diverse, species-rich group of inoperculate discomycetes with fascinating morphology and peculiar ecology
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