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Macias, Angie [1], Lovett, Brian [1], Jusino, Michelle A. [2], Cole, Lauren [3], Kasson, Matt [1].

Beyond the petri dish: a culture-free view of the fungal associates of the feather millipede Brachycybe lecontii.

Fungi are ubiquitous, abundant, and diverse. In the environment, fungi provide many essential services, such as trading nutrients with plants, decomposing plant material, and serving as important pathogens. Humans use fungi to produce antibiotics, enzymes, and other medically-important compounds, and also universally consume fungi as food. One group of millipedes, the subterclass Colobognatha, also enjoys a diet rich in fungi, and may use them for other, as-yet-unknown purposes. The fungivorous millipede Brachycybe lecontii is known to associate with more than 170 genera and 39 orders of fungi, including at least 7 putatively new species. Our 2019 culture-based study found that a core group of 12 genera of these fungi were associated with millipedes from sites across 7 states, indicating that fungi may play an important role in the millipede diet or have some other function. However, culture-dependent studies are inherently biased towards fungi that can tolerate plating, will grow on artificial media, and can compete with other fungi until isolation. In this study, we used Illumina ITS metabarcoding to characterize the fungal communities associated with 60 B. lecontii individuals collected from three sites in the Appalachian Mountains. Two of these sites were also sampled in our 2019 study, facilitating direct comparisons across culture-based and culture-free methods. After bioinformatics using the AMPtk pipeline, 4574 fungal OTUs were identified, representing 107 orders and 9 phyla. Approximately half of these fungal OTUs were assigned a family or lower classification, and 13% were not assigned any taxonomy beyond Kingdom Fungi. Several of the most common genera were also abundant in our 2019 study, but several members of the core culture-based community were rare in the culture-free study. Additionally, we compared the fungal community across millipede sexes, study sites, and across different colonies from the same site. Millipedes were one of the first air-breathing land animals, arising ca. 412 million years ago, and the fungivorous subterclass Colobognatha has been extant for 200-300 million years. This study provides the first culture-independent study of the fungal community associated with any member of the subterclass Colobognatha, which includes 34 species of millipedes in the continental United States alone. Ongoing studies are underway to investigate the fungal communities of up to 23 more millipede species.

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1 - West Virginia University
2 - William & Mary
3 - WV DNR Parks

Brachycybe lecontii
Fungal diversity

Presentation Type: Poster
Session: MYP2, Mycology Posters II
Location: Virtual/Virtual
Date: Tuesday, July 20th, 2021
Time: 5:00 PM(EDT)
Number: MYP2016
Abstract ID:945
Candidate for Awards:MSA Best Poster Presentation Award by a Graduate Student

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