Mines and caves are unusual ecosystems containing unique fungi and are greatly understudied compared to other environments. The Soudan Mine in Tower, MN, an iron ore mine that closed in 1963 after operating for 80 years, was sampled to explore fungal diversity and to investigate taxa that tolerate heavy metals for potential bioprocessing technologies or as sources of bioactive molecules for drug discovery and possible biocontrol for white-nose syndrome (WNS) of bats. The mine is 714 m deep, has 18 levels and contains large quantities of wooden timbers, in contrast to many other oligotrophic subterranean environments. Fungi were cultured from samples and the ITS region was sequenced for identification and phylogenetic analysis. Results show Ascomycota are the dominant fungi followed by Basidiomycota and Mucoromycota. Out of 164 identified taxa, 108 belong to the Ascomycota and 26 and 31 to Basidiomycota and Mucoromycota, respectively. There are also 46 taxa that do not match (<97% BLAST GenBank identity) sequenced fungal species. Examples of the most commonly isolated Ascomycota include Scytalidium sp., Mariannaea comptospora, Hypocrea pachybasidioides, Oidiodendron griseum and Pochonia bulbillosa; Basidiomycota include Postia sp., Sistotrema brinkmannii, Calocera sp., Amylocorticiellum sp.; Mucoromycota include Mortierella parvispora, M. gamsii, M. hyaline, M. basiparvispora and Mortierella sp. Unusual growth forms were also found including large quantities of black rhizomorphs of Armillaria sinapina and white mycelial cords of Postia sp. mycelium, as well as Pseudogymnoascus species growing over large areas of mine walls and ceiling. The mine environment is a relatively extreme environment for fungi, with the presence of high levels of heavy metals, complete darkness and poor nutrient availability. Several genera are similar to those isolated in other extreme environments but phylogenetic analyses show differences in species between these environments. Results indicate this subterranean environment hosts a wide diversity of fungi, many of them not found in above ground environments.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) (CS), USFW grant F15AP01056 (CS), and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station with funds from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture Hatch project 1901-11031-21367-AES0022081 (RB)
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