Evidence of parasitic Oomycetes (Peronosporomycetes) infecting the stem cortex of the Carboniferous seed fern Lyginopteris oldhamia

C. Strullu-Derrien, P. Kenrick, J. P. Rioult, D. G. Strullu

Abstract

Thin sections of petrified fossils made during the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to investigate the internal tissue systems of plants now provide an important new source of information on associated micro-organisms. We report a new heterokont eukaryote (Combresomyces williamsonii sp. nov.) based on exquisitely preserved fossil oogonia, antheridia and hyphae from the Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian: Bashkirian stage) of UK. The structure of the oogonia and antheridia and features observed within the hyphae demonstrate a relationship with Oomycetes (Peronosporomycetes). The fossil micro-organism was documented in situ in petrified stem cortex and rootlets of the extinct seed fern Lyginopteris oldhamia (Pteridospermales). The main observed features point towards a pythiaceous Oomycete but links to biotrophic Albuginales or Peronosporaceae cannot be ruled out owing to the observation of a possible haustorium. Our study provides the earliest evidence for parasitism in Oomycetes.

  • Received July 26, 2010.
  • Accepted August 24, 2010.
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