Fungal Partner

Another important component of the successful colonization and exploitation of the terrestrial realm by plants may have involved mutualistic associations with certain fungi (Pirozynski and Malloch, 1975). These symbioses are ubiquitous today (Chapter 3) and may have provided early land plants with an increased ability to obtain nutrients as a result of the extensive hyphal network of the fungus. In exchange for an increased ability to scavenge nutrients, the fungus gained access to a stable source of carbon. The fact that several Early Devonian land plants display well-established endomycorrhizae in both the sporophyte and gametophyte phases (T. Taylor et al., 1995, 2005c) adds credibility to this scenario. To further test this hypothesis we need to either find additional structurally preserved land plants with myc-orrhizal fungi in their tissues, or develop techniques to detect the presence of specific mycorrhizal fungal biomarkers in compression fossils of early land plants.

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