Fungi are among the least studied and least understood organisms.  Elevated from plants to their own kingdom in 1969, they are extremely diverse yet difficult to observe, since many species cannot be grown in the lab.  The gaps in our knowledge of the fungi are being filled by new efforts to catalog them, but one of the most interesting findings may come from analysis of their genomes.  A new study shows that introns (intragenic regions) are more dynamic than previously thought.

How do you pronounce fungi?  Everyone knows the singular fungus, but the plural gets a variety of pronunciations.  Dictionary.com allows for either fun•jie or fun•guy as appropriate; David Attenborough usually says fun•ghee.  Take your pick; they are still fun to look at (see cute mushrooms at Flickr.com) – but no fun if you eat the wrong ones.  Never eat a mushroom in the wild!  Every healthy, safe mushroom has a look-alike that is poisonous.  The diversity of fungi is astonishing.  Some even glow in the dark.

Fungi are extremely important to the whole biosphere.  The BBC News said that “fungi, which fall between plants and animals on the tree of life, are the hidden helpers of our environment: they recycle waste and dead matter, and provide plants with water and nutrients.”  Dr. Martyn Ainsworth, a fungus researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, said, “They are absolutely fundamental to ecosystems. Fungi are really the behind-the-scenes team that are doing all the work.”  But as we know, humans have to deal with economic downsides of unwanted fungi like rusts, molds and blights.  The BBC article said that some of the most interesting findings are coming from genetics.

An example was just published in Current Biology.1  Torriani et al. announced “Evidence for Extensive Recent Intron Transposition in Closely Related Fungi.”  Introns are non-coding DNA found between the “exons” – the coding parts that have to be spliced together after transcription from DNA to make messenger RNA.  Why are these introns, like spacers, transcribed, only to be clipped out?  Why does intron density vary by three orders of magnitude among eukaryotes?  These have long been mysteries.  Torriani et al. studied three closely-related species of fungi and found “74 intron positions showing intraspecific presence-absence polymorphisms (PAPs) for the entire intron.”

Into the Amazon (4 DVDs)

Uncover seven mysteries of the Amazon, and learn about science and God’s incredible creation in Vision Forum’s new DVD series, Into the Amazon: One Lost World, Thirty Men, Seven Mysteries.

Join Doug Phillips and his team of thirty men on an adventure you will never forget — to the Amazon jungle, high into the Andes Mountains, and to the Great Peruvian Desert — and bring your entire family! Explore piranha-infested rivers and vampire bat caves, discover strange insects and fascinating plant life, fly over the strange Nazca lines, and encounter the remains of pagan civilizations that continue to negatively influence modern cultures. Together your family will discover why the Amazon is one of the most controversial places on earth, and your children will learn the truth in the battle between radical environmentalism and biblical Christianity.

  • Episode 1: The Mystery of the Meaning of the Amazon
  • Episode 2: The Mystery of the Lost Legacy of Adventure & Dominion
  • Episode 3: The Mystery of the Strange Creatures of the Amazon
  • Episode 4: The Mystery of the Plants of the Amazon
  • Episode 5: The Mystery of the Lost Tribes
  • Episode 6: The Mystery of the Ica Stones & the Great Peruvian Desert
  • Episode 7: The Mystery of Machu Picchu and the Mighty Inca Empire
  • Over 300 minutes on 4 DVDs, including a bonus disc.

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