Charles Darwin’s long-term illness has been the subject of much speculation. His numerous symptoms have led to conclusions that his illness was essentially psychogenic in nature. These diagnoses have never been fully convincing, however, particularly in regard to the proposed underlying psychological background causes of the illness. Similarly, two proposed somatic causes of illness, Chagas disease and arsenic poisoning, lack credibility and appear inconsistent with the lifetime history of the illness. Other physical explanations are simply too incomplete to explain the range of symptoms. Here, a very different sort of explanation will be offered. We now know that mitochondrial mutations producing impaired mitochondrial function may result in a wide range of differing symptoms, including symptoms thought to be primarily psychological. Examination of Darwin’s maternal family history supports the contention that his illness was mitochondrial in nature; his mother and one maternal uncle had strange illnesses and the youngest maternal sibling died of an infirmity with symptoms characteristic of mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes (MELAS syndrome), a condition rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction. Darwin’s own symptoms are described here and are in accord with the hypothesis that he had the mtDNA mutation commonly associated with the MELAS syndrome.
150 years ago, Heinrich Bronn provided in the first German translation of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species a rather liberal interpretation, even adding his own view of Darwin's ideas in an additional 15th chapter. Ernst Haeckel widely popularized his view of Darwinian evolution based on his reading of this translation. This was long seen - probably incorrectly - as the intellectual root of social Darwinism in Germany.
Debates over the status of the tree of life (TOL) often proceed without agreement as to what it is supposed to be: a hierarchical classification scheme, a tracing of genomic and organismal history or a hypothesis about evolutionary processes and the patterns they can generate. I will argue that for Darwin it was a hypothesis, which lateral gene transfer in prokaryotes now shows to be false. I will propose a more general and relaxed evolutionary theory and point out why anti-evolutionists should take no comfort from disproof of the TOL hypothesis.
tree of life; lateral gene transfer; horizontal gene transfer; prokaryote genome evolution; phylogenetics
The idea of an evolutionary sequence for humans is quite recent. Over the last 150 years, we have discovered unexpected ancestors, numerous close relatives and our deep evolutionary roots in Africa. In the last decade, three Late Miocene hominids have been described, two about 6 Ma (Ardipithecus and Orrorin) in East Africa and the third dated to about 7 Ma (Sahelanthropus) in Central Africa. The specimens are too few to propose definite relationship to other species, but clearly these belong to a new evolutive grade distinct from Australopithecus and Homo. Moreover, all of them were probably habitual bipeds and lived in woodlands, thus falsifying the savannah hypothesis of human origins. In light of all this recent knowledge, Charles Darwin predicted correctly in 1871 that Africa is the birthplace of humans, chimpanzees and our close relatives.
earliest hominids; central Africa; evolutionary grade; woodland origin
In 2009, we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin and the 150th jubilee of his masterpiece, the Origin of Species. Darwin developed the first coherent and compelling narrative of biological evolution and thus founded evolutionary biology—and modern biology in general, remembering the famous dictum of Dobzhansky. It is, however, counter-productive, and ultimately, a disservice to Darwin’s legacy, to define modern evolutionary biology as neo-Darwinism. The current picture of evolution, informed, in particular, by results of comparative genomics and systems biology, is by far more complex than that presented in the Origin of Species, so that Darwinian principles, including natural selection, are incorporated into the evolving new synthesis as important but certainly not all-embracing tenets. This expansion of evolutionary biology does not denigrate Darwin in the least but rather emphasizes the fertility of his ideas.
Darwin’s anniversary; Darwinism; modern synthesis; genome evolution; systems biology; horizontal gene transfer; Tree of Life
200 years have now passed since Darwin was born and scientists around the world are celebrating this important anniversary of the birth of an evolutionary visionary. However, the theories of his colleague Lamarck are treated with considerably less acclaim. These theories centre on the tendency for complexity to increase in organisms over time and the direct transmission of phenotypic traits from parents to offspring.
Lamarckian concepts, long thought of no relevance to modern evolutionary theory, are enjoying a quiet resurgence with the increasing complexity of epigenetic theories of inheritance. There is evidence that epigenetic alterations, including DNA methylation and histone modifications, are transmitted transgenerationally, thus providing a potential mechanism for environmental influences to be passed from parents to offspring: Lamarckian evolution. Furthermore, evidence is accumulating that epigenetics plays an important role in many common medical conditions.
Epigenetics allows the peaceful co-existence of Darwinian and Lamarckian evolution. Further efforts should be exerted on studying the mechanisms by which this occurs so that public health measures can be undertaken to reverse or prevent epigenetic changes important in disease susceptibility. Perhaps in 2059 we will be celebrating the anniversary of both Darwin and Lamarck.
This year celebrates the 200th aniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, best known for his theory of evolution summarized in On the Origin of Species. Less well known is that, in the second half of his life, Darwin’s major scientific focus turned towards plants. He wrote several books on plants, the next-to-last of which, The Power of Movement of Plants, published together with his son Francis, opened plants to a new view. Here we amplify the final sentence of this book in which the Darwins proposed that: “It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the tip of the radicle thus endowed [with sensitivity] and having the power of directing the movements of the adjoining parts, acts like the brain of one of the lower animals; the brain being seated within the anterior end of the body, receiving impressions from the sense-organs, and directing the several movements.” This sentence conveys two important messages: first, that the root apex may be considered to be a ‘brain-like’ organ endowed with a sensitivity which controls its navigation through soil; second, that the root apex represents the anterior end of the plant body. In this article, we discuss both these statements.
auxin; cognition; plant neurobiology; plant tropisms; roots; sensory biology; signaling
When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species 150 years ago he consciously avoided discussing the origin of life. However, analysis of some other texts written by Darwin, and of the correspondence he exchanged with friends and colleagues demonstrates that he took for granted the possibility of a natural emergence of the first life forms. As shown by notes from the pages he excised from his private notebooks, as early as 1837 Darwin was convinced that “the intimate relation of Life with laws of chemical combination, & the universality of latter render spontaneous generation not improbable”. Like many of his contemporaries, Darwin rejected the idea that putrefaction of preexisting organic compounds could lead to the appearance of organisms. Although he favored the possibility that life could appear by natural processes from simple inorganic compounds, his reluctance to discuss the issue resulted from his recognition that at the time it was possible to undertake the experimental study of the emergence of life.
Darwin; Warm little pond; Origin of life; Spontaneous generation
The evidence which I have just summarized establishes priority of publication concerning the action of digitalis for Erasmus Darwin, but on every other ground, Withering deserves full credit for the discovery. Charles Darwin, the medical student, had been informed of its action by his father and had attempted to account for it on the basis of improvement of lymphatic drainage. But the work, accomplished by the first Charles Darwin is less significant than the abundant evidence of his intellectual ability and precocity, and I have ventured to lay the details of his career before you because of their intrinsic interest and in the hope that the information will serve in a small way to clarify the unsolved problem of the relation of nature to nurture in establishing mental traits and capacities.
When Charles Darwin formulated the central principles of evolutionary biology in the Origin of Species in 1859 and the architects of the Modern Synthesis integrated these principles with population genetics almost a century later, the principal if not the sole objects of evolutionary biology were multicellular eukaryotes, primarily animals and plants. Before the advent of efficient gene sequencing, all attempts to extend evolutionary studies to bacteria have been futile. Sequencing of the rRNA genes in thousands of microbes allowed the construction of the three- domain “ribosomal Tree of Life” that was widely thought to have resolved the evolutionary relationships between the cellular life forms. However, subsequent massive sequencing of numerous, complete microbial genomes revealed novel evolutionary phenomena, the most fundamental of these being: (1) pervasive horizontal gene transfer (HGT), in large part mediated by viruses and plasmids, that shapes the genomes of archaea and bacteria and call for a radical revision (if not abandonment) of the Tree of Life concept, (2) Lamarckian-type inheritance that appears to be critical for antivirus defense and other forms of adaptation in prokaryotes, and (3) evolution of evolvability, i.e., dedicated mechanisms for evolution such as vehicles for HGT and stress-induced mutagenesis systems. In the non-cellular part of the microbial world, phylogenomics and metagenomics of viruses and related selfish genetic elements revealed enormous genetic and molecular diversity and extremely high abundance of viruses that come across as the dominant biological entities on earth. Furthermore, the perennial arms race between viruses and their hosts is one of the defining factors of evolution. Thus, microbial phylogenomics adds new dimensions to the fundamental picture of evolution even as the principle of descent with modification discovered by Darwin and the laws of population genetics remain at the core of evolutionary biology.
Darwin; modern synthesis; comparative genomics; tree of life; horizontal gene transfer
In 1849, Charles Darwin was so ill that he was unable to work one out of every 3 days, and after having various troubling symptoms for 2–12 years, he wrote to a friend that he was ‘going the way of all flesh’. He sought treatment from Dr James Manby Gully, a medical doctor who used water cure and homeopathic medicines. Despite being highly skeptical of these treatments, he experienced a dramatic improvement in his health, though some of his digestive and skin symptoms returned various times in his life. He grew to appreciate water cure, but remained skeptical of homeopathy, even though his own experiments on insectivore plants using what can be described as homeopathic doses of ammonia salts surprised and shocked him with their significant biological effect. Darwin even expressed concern that he should publish these results. Two of Darwin's sons were as incredulous as he was, but their observations confirmed the results of his experiments. Darwin was also known to have read a book on evolution written by a homeopathic physician that Darwin described as similar to his own but ‘goes much deeper.’
Charles Darwin; homeopathy; homeopathic; homeopath; James Manby Gully; hydrotherapy; water-cure; naturopathy; naturopathic medicine; history of medicine; history of science; extremely small doses; Drosera rotundifolia; Sir Charles Hastings; William Court Gully
Genetic analysis of museum specimens offers a direct window into a past that can predate the loss of extinct forms. We genotyped 18 Galápagos finches collected by Charles Darwin and companions during the voyage of the Beagle in 1835, and 22 specimens collected in 1901. Our goals were to determine if significant genetic diversity has been lost since the Beagle voyage and to determine the genetic source of specimens for which the collection locale was not recorded. Using ‘ancient’ DNA techniques, we quantified variation at 14 autosomal microsatellite loci. Assignment tests showed several museum specimens genetically matched recently field-sampled birds from their island of origin. Some were misclassified or were difficult to classify. Darwin's exceptionally large ground finches (Geospiza magnirostris) from Floreana and San Cristóbal were genetically distinct from several other currently existing populations. Sharp-beaked ground finches (Geospiza difficilis) from Floreana and Isabela were also genetically distinct. These four populations are currently extinct, yet they were more genetically distinct from congeners than many other species of Darwin's finches are from each other. We conclude that a significant amount of the finch biodiversity observed and collected by Darwin has been lost since the voyage of the Beagle.
ancient DNA; historical; microsatellite; NHC; population structure; SSR
The central argument of The origin of species was that mechanical processes (inheritance of features and the differential reproduction they cause) can give rise to the appearance of design. The 'mechanical processes' are now mathematically represented by the dynamic systems of population genetics, and the appearance of design by optimization and game theory in which the individual plays the part of the maximizing agent. Establishing a precise individual-as-maximizing-agent (IMA) analogy for a population-genetics system justifies optimization approaches, and so provides a modern formal representation of the core of Darwinism. It is a hitherto unnoticed implication of recent population-genetics models that, contrary to a decades-long consensus, an IMA analogy can be found in models with stochastic environments (subject to a convexity assumption), in which individuals maximize expected reproductive value. The key is that the total reproductive value of a species must be considered as constant, so therefore reproductive value should always be calculated in relative terms. This result removes a major obstacle from the theoretical challenge to find a unifying framework which establishes the IMA analogy for all of Darwinian biology, including as special cases inclusive fitness, evolutionarily stable strategies, evolutionary life-history theory, age-structured models and sex ratio theory. This would provide a formal, mathematical justification of fruitful and widespread but 'intentional' terms in evolutionary biology, such as 'selfish', 'altruism' and 'conflict'.
The distribution of mockingbird species among the Galápagos Islands prompted Charles Darwin to question, for the first time in writing, the ‘stability of species’. Some 50 years after Darwin's visit, however, the endemic Floreana mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus) had become extinct on Floreana Island and, today, only two small populations survive on two satellite islets. As Darwin noted, rarity often precedes extinction. To avert extinction, plans are being developed to reintroduce M. trifasciatus to Floreana. Here, we integrate evolutionary thinking and conservation practice using coalescent analyses and genetic data from contemporary and museum samples, including two collected by Darwin and Robert Fitzroy on Floreana in 1835. Our microsatellite results show substantial differentiation between the two extant populations, but our coalescence-based modelling does not indicate long, independent evolutionary histories. One of the populations is highly inbred, but both harbour unique alleles present on Floreana in 1835, suggesting that birds from both islets should be used to establish a single, mixed population on Floreana. Thus, Darwin's mockingbird specimens not only revealed to him a level of variation that suggested speciation following geographical isolation but also, more than 170 years later, return important information to their place of origin for the conservation of their conspecifics.
museum specimens; genetic diversity; conservation; Galápagos; Nesomimus
Small incremental biological change, winnowed by natural selection over geological time scales to produce large consequences, was Darwin's singular insight that revolutionized the life sciences. His publications after 1859, including the ‘earthworm book’, were all written to amplify and support the evolutionary theory presented in the Origin. Darwin was unable to provide a physical basis for the inheritance of favoured traits because of the absence of genetic knowledge that much later led to the ‘modern synthesis’. Mistaken though he was in advocating systemic ‘gemmules’ as agents of inheritance, Darwin was perceptive in seeking to underpin his core vision with concrete factors that both determine the nature of a trait in one generation and convey it to subsequent generations. This brief review evaluates the molecular genetic literature on earthworms published during the last decade, and casts light on the specific aspects of earthworm evolutionary biology that more or less engaged Darwin: (i) biogeography, (ii) species diversity, (iii) local adaptations and (iv) sensitivity. We predict that the current understanding will deepen with the announcement of a draft earthworm genome in Darwin's bicentenary year, 2009. Subsequently, the earthworm may be elevated from the status of a soil sentinel to that elusive entity, an ecologically relevant genetic model organism.
Darwin; earthworms; evolution; genotypes; biogeography; transcriptomics
In the Origin of Species Darwin hypothesized that the “manufactory” of species operates at different rates in different lineages and that the richness of taxonomic units is autocorrelated across levels of the taxonomic hierarchy. We confirm the manufactory hypothesis using a database of all the world's extant avian subspecies, species and genera. The hypothesis is confirmed both in correlations across all genera and in paired comparisons controlling for phylogeny. We also find that the modern risk of extinction, as measured by “Red List” classifications, differs across the different categories of genera identified by Darwin. Specifically, species in “manufactory” genera are less likely to be threatened, endangered or recently extinct than are “weak manufactory” genera. Therefore, although Darwin used his hypothesis to investigate past evolutionary processes, we find that the hypothesis also foreshadows future changes to the evolutionary tree.
A tension has long existed between those biologists who emphasize the importance of adaptation by natural selection and those who highlight the role of phylogenetic and developmental constraints on organismal form and function. This contrast has been particularly noticeable in recent debates concerning the evolution of human language. Darwin himself acknowledged the existence and importance of both of these, and a long line of biologists have followed him in seeing, in the concept of “descent with modification”, a framework naturally able to incorporate both adaptation and constraint. Today, the integrated perspective of modern evolutionary developmental biology (“evo-devo”) allows a more subtle and pluralistic approach to these traditional questions, and has provided several examples where the traditional notion of “constraint” can be cashed out in specific, mechanistic terms. This integrated viewpoint is particularly relevant to the evolution of the multiple mechanisms underlying human language, because of the short time available for novel aspects of these mechanisms to evolve and be optimized. Comparative data indicate that many cognitive aspects of human language predate humans, suggesting that pre-adaptation and exaptation have played important roles in language evolution. Thus, substantial components of what many linguists call “Universal Grammar” predate language itself. However, at least some of these older mechanisms have been combined in ways that generate true novelty. I suggest that we can insightfully exploit major steps forward in our understanding of evolution and development, to gain a richer understanding of the principles that underlie human language evolution.
Evo-devo; Language evolution; Adaptation; Exaptation; Constraints; Spandrel; Phenotypic plasticity
Biological evolution represents one of the most successful, but also controversial scientific concepts. Ever since Charles Darwin formulated his version of evolution via natural selection, biological sciences experienced explosive development and progress. First of all, although Darwin could not explain how traits of organisms, selected via natural selection, are inherited and passed down along generations; his theory stimulated research in this respect and resulted in the establishment of genetics and still later in the discovery of DNA and genome sequencing some hundred years after his evolutionary theory. Nevertheless, there are several weaknesses in classical Darwinian as well as Neodarwinian gene-centric views of biological evolution. The most serious drawback is its narrow focus: the modern evolutionary synthesis, as formulated in the 20th Century, is based on the concept of gene and on the mathematical/statistical analysis of populations. While Neodarwinism is still generally considered a valid theory of biological evolution, its narrow focus and incompatibility with several new findings and discoveries calls for its update and/or transformation. Either it will be replaced with an updated version or, if not flexible enough, it will be replaced by a new theory. In his book “Evolution — A New View from the 21st Century,”1 James A. Shapiro discusses these problems as well as newly emerging results which are changing our understanding of biological evolution. This new book joins a row of several other recent books highlighting the same issues.2–13
Evolutionary theory has never had a stronger scientific foundation than it does today. In a short review I hope to portray the deep commitment of today's biologists to Darwinian natural selection and to discoveries made since Darwin's time. In spite of the scientific advances in the century and a half since the publication of On the Origin of Species, Darwin still remains the principal author of modern evolutionary theory. He is one of the greatest contributors of all time to our understanding of nature.
2009 marks not only the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth but also publication of the first scientific evolutionary theory, Lamarck's Philosophie Zoologique. While Lamarck embraced the notion of the inheritance of acquired characters, he did not invent it . New phenomena discovered recently offer molecular pathways for the transmission of several acquired characters. Ciliates have long provided model systems to study phenomena that bypass traditional modes of inheritance. RNA, normally thought of as a conduit in gene expression, displays a novel mode of action in ciliated protozoa. For example, maternal RNA templates provide both an organizing guide for DNA rearrangements in Oxytricha and a template that can transmit spontaneous mutations that may arise during somatic growth to the next generation, providing two such mechanisms of so-called Lamarckian inheritance. This suggests that the somatic ciliate genome is really an "epigenome", formed through templates and signals arising from the previous generation. This review will discuss these new biological roles for RNA, including noncoding "template" RNA molecules. The evolutionary consequences of viable mechanisms in ciliates to transmit acquired characters may create an additional store of heritable variation that contributes to the cosmopolitan success of this diverse lineage of microbial eukaryotes.
Estimates of hybrid fitness have been used as either a platform for testing the potential role of natural hybridization in the evolution of species and species complexes or, alternatively, as a rationale for dismissing hybridization events as being of any evolutionary significance. From the time of Darwin's publication of The Origin, through the neo-Darwinian synthesis, to the present day, the observation of variability in hybrid fitness has remained a challenge for some models of speciation. Yet, Darwin and others have reported the elevated fitness of hybrid genotypes under certain environmental conditions. In modern scientific terminology, this observation reflects the fact that hybrid genotypes can demonstrate genotype × environment interactions. In the current review, we illustrate the development of one plant species complex, namely the Louisiana Irises, into a ‘model system' for investigating hybrid fitness and the role of genetic exchange in adaptive evolution and diversification. In particular, we will argue that a multitude of approaches, involving both experimental and natural environments, and incorporating both manipulative analyses and surveys of natural populations, are necessary to adequately test for the evolutionary significance of introgressive hybridization. An appreciation of the variability of hybrid fitness leads to the conclusion that certain genetic signatures reflect adaptive evolution. Furthermore, tests of the frequency of allopatric versus sympatric/parapatric divergence (that is, divergence with ongoing gene flow) support hybrid genotypes as a mechanism of evolutionary diversification in numerous species complexes.
natural hybridization; habitat selection; hybrid fitness
The scientific contribution of Darwin, still agonized in many religious circles, has now been recognized and celebrated by scientists from various disciplines. However, in recent years, several evolutionists have criticized Darwin as outdated, arguing that “Darwinism,” assimilated to the “tree of life,” cannot explain microbial evolution, or else was not operating in early life evolution. These critics either confuse “Darwinism” and old versions of “neo-Darwinism” or misunderstand the role of gene transfers in evolution. The core of Darwin explanation of evolution (variation/selection) remains necessary and sufficient to decipher the history of life. The enormous diversity of mechanisms underlying variations has been successfully interpreted by evolutionists in this framework and has considerably enriched the corpus of evolutionary biology without the necessity to kill the father. However, it remains for evolutionists to acknowledge interactions between cells and viruses (unknown for Darwin) as a major driving force in life evolution.
evolutionary synthesis; variation; natural selection; lateral gene transfer; Darwinian threshold; viruses
All living beings on Earth, from bacteria to humans, are connected through descent from common ancestors and represent the summation of their corresponding, ca. 3500 million year long evolutionary history. However, the evolution of phenotypic features is not predictable, and biologists no longer use terms such as "primitive" or "perfect organisms". Despite these insights, the Bible-based concept of the so-called "ladder of life" or Scala Naturae, i.e., the idea that all living beings can be viewed as representing various degrees of "perfection", with humans at the very top of this biological hierarchy, was popular among naturalists until ca. 1850 (Charles Bonnet, Jean Lamarck and others). Charles Darwin is usually credited with the establishment of a branched evolutionary "Tree of Life". This insight of 1859 was based on his now firmly corroborated proposals of common ancestry and natural selection. In this article I argue that Darwin was still influenced by "ladder thinking", a theological view that prevailed throughout the 19th century and is also part of Ernst Haeckel's famous Oak tree (of Life) of 1866, which is, like Darwin's scheme, static. In 1910, Constantin Mereschkowsky proposed an alternative, "anti-selectionist" concept of biological evolution, which became known as the symbiogenesis-theory. According to the symbiogenesis-scenario, eukaryotic cells evolved on a static Earth from archaic prokaryotes via the fusion and subsequent cooperation of certain microbes. In 1929, Alfred Wegener published his theory of continental drift, which was later corroborated, modified and extended. The resulting theory of plate tectonics is now the principal organizing concept of geology. Over millions of years, plate tectonics and hence the "dynamic Earth" has caused destructive volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. At the same time, it created mountain ranges, deep oceans, novel freshwater habitats, and deserts. As a result, these geologic processes destroyed numerous populations of organisms, and produced the environmental conditions for new species of animals, plants and microbes to adapt and evolve. In this article I propose a tree-like "symbiogenesis, natural selection, and dynamic Earth (synade)-model" of macroevolution that is based on these novel facts and data.
This article was reviewed by Mark Ragan, W. Ford Doolittle, and Staffan Müller-Wille.
The 200th anniversary of Darwin and the 150th jubilee of the Origin of Species prompt a new look at evolutionary biology. The 1959 Origin centennial was marked by the consolidation of the Modern Synthesis. The edifice of the Modern Synthesis has crumbled, apparently, beyond repair. The hallmark of the Darwinian discourse of 2009 is the plurality of evolutionary processes and patterns. Nevertheless, glimpses of a new synthesis might be discernible in emerging universals of evolution.
The fossil record of Peronosporomycetes (water moulds) is rather sparse, though their distinctive ornamentation means they are probably better reported than some true fungal groups. Here we describe a rare Palaeozoic occurrence of this group from a Guadalupian (Middle Permian) silicified peat deposit in the Bainmedart Coal Measures, Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica. Specimens are numerous and comprise two morphologically distinct kinds of ornamented oogonia, of which some are attached to hyphae by a septum. Combresomyces caespitosus sp. nov. consists of spherical oogonia bearing densely spaced, long, hollow, slender, conical papillae with multiple sharply pointed, strongly divergent, apical branches that commonly form a pseudoreticulate pattern under optical microscopy. The oogonia are attached to a parental hypha by a short truncated stalk with a single septum. Combresomyces rarus sp. nov. consists of spherical oogonia bearing widely spaced, hollow, broad, conical papillae that terminate in a single bifurcation producing a pair of acutely divergent sharply pointed branches. The oogonium bears a short truncate extension where it attaches to the parental hypha. We propose that similarities in oogonium shape, size, spine morphology and hyphal attachment between the Permian forms from the Prince Charles Mountains and other reported Peronosporomycetes from Devonian to Triassic strata at widely separated localities elsewhere in the world delimit an extinct but once cosmopolitan Palaeozoic to early Mesozoic branch of the peronosporomycete clade. We name this order Combresomycetales and note that it played an important role in late Palaeozoic and early Mesozoic peatland ecosystems worldwide.