Book Review

The Ecological Genomics of Fungi

Edited by Francis Martin
2014, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN 978-1-119-94610-6 (cloth)
384 pages; $199.95

Fungi play a wide range of roles in ecosystems—they decompose plant wood and litter, parasitize plants, animals, and other fungi, form mutualistic associations with algae and green plants, and undoubtedly do things that we have yet to discover. However, although we understand these general roles fairly well, we have a much poorer understanding of exactly what it is that individual fungi are doing in nature. Now, with the increasing availability of molecular tools such as high-throughput DNA sequencing, it is becoming possible to gain deeper insights into the ecological activities of these environmentally critical organisms.

In simple terms, ecological genomics involves the use of data on the DNA content (“genome”) of organisms, in this case fungi, to investigate ecological questions. The stated aim of this book is to act as a catalyst for future research by bringing together a collection of contributions on genomes across a range of lifestyles and ecological traits. The authors were encouraged to explore how the massive streams of fungal sequences could be exploited to get a better understanding of the evolution of fungi and their ecological roles through ecological genomics.

The 16 chapters were written by 48 contributors from 10 countries and are organized in five sections: Section 1—Sequencing Fungal Genomes (A Changing Landscape of Fungal Genomics; Repeated Elements in Filamentous Fungi with a Focus on Wood-Decay Fungi); Section 2—Saprotrophic Fungi (Wood Decay; Aspergilli and Biomass-Degrading Fungi; Ecological Genomics of Trichoderma); Section 3—Plant-Interacting Fungi (Dothideomycetes: Plant Pathogens, Saprobes, and Extremophiles; Biotrophic Fungi [Powdery Mildews, Rusts, and Smuts]; The Mycorrhizal Symbiosis Genomics; Lichen Genomics: Prospects and Progress); Section 4—Animal-Interacting Fungi (Ecogenomics of Human and Animal Basidiomycetous Yeast Pathogens; Genomics of Entomopathogenic Fungi; Ecological Genomics of the Microsporidia); and Section 5—Metagenomics and Biogeography of Fungi (Metagenomics for Study of Fungal Ecology; Metatranscriptomics of Soil Eukaryotic Communities; Fungi in Deep-Sea Environments and Metagenomics, The Biodiversity, Ecology, and Biogeography of Ascomycetous Yeasts). Whew …

The chapters are mostly heavy-going, much more suited to workers in the field than to interested bystanders. Although not profusely illustrated, many of the chapters are accompanied by black-and-white photographs, illustrations, charts, or phylogenetic trees. Selected ones are also reproduced in color and collected in a central section. The production quality is high.

Given the specialized technical nature of this compilation, its stated aim, and its relatively high price, it is likely that most of the audience will be researchers who will make use of their library’s copy. Interested individuals of modest means should check their nearest university.

— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA
— Originally published in Fungi Magazine