Thamnidium elegans v1.0
Photo of Thamnidium elegans v1.0
1) Multi-spored sporangia at the tips of stalked sporophores. 2) Sporangioles with persistant walls arising from lateral branches. Images provided by Kerry O'Donnell

Thamnidium elegans Link (1809) is one of the more commonly encountered species of the order Mucorales, and a representative of “zygomycete” fungi.  It has been isolated from dung, soil and stored meats.  This species reproduces asexually via the production of globose to subglobose multi-spored sporangia, which are formed at the tips of stalked sporophores (Fig. 1).  The sporangial wall disintegrates at maturity releasing sporangiospores into the environment.  T. elegans may also produce lateral branches that give rise to few-spored sporangioles with persistant walls (Fig. 2).  In both cases sporangiospores are small and ovoid to elliptical.  Sexual reproduction is by gametangial conjugation and the formation of darkly pigmented, ornamented zygospores (Benny 1992).  It is of particular interest due to its ability to produce high quantities of linolenic acid.  Sequencing of T. elegans will advance the 1000 Fungal Genome Project by providing a representative genome for Thamnidiaceae, an important family of “zygomycetes” and additional insight into the evolution of fatty acid biosynthesis by early diverging fungi.

References
Benny GL. 1992. Observations on Thamnidiaceae (Mucorales). V. Thamnidium. Mycologia 84: 834-842.
Bellou S, Moustogianni A, Makri A, Aggelis  G.  2012.  Lipids containing polyunsaturated fatty acids synthesized by zygomycetes grown on glycerol.  Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology  166: 146-158.