The Phallales

[ Basidiomycetes > . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

One of the more remarkable results from the many DNA studies performed on fungi over the last few decades is the consistent alignment of the stinkhorns with species of Gomphus, Ramaria, Clavariadelphus, and Geastrum. As an example, here is a simplified version of part of a "cladogram" (a tree diagram representing genetic relationships) from a 1999 study by Pine et al. (citation below), demonstrating what the authors call the "Gomphoid-Phalloid Clade":

Gomphoid-Phalloid Clade

A mammoth compilation of DNA results on many, many mushrooms (Moncalvo et al., 2002; citation below) adds other species from some of the same genera into the picture, as well as a Protubera species and Aseröe arachnoidea.

If you are thinking that stinkhorns, earthstars, coral mushrooms and Gomphus floccosus make for strange genetic bedfellows, I can't blame you. The result has been repeated several times, however, and seems unequivocal at this point. Identification keys, certainly, have no choice but to ignore the finding, since the physical features of the mushrooms (macroscopic and microscopic) are so diverse. Pine et al. note that "[f]ungi in the gomphoid-phalloid clade are remarkably ecologically and morphologically diverse, and have traditionally been examined by different groups of mycologists." However, I have a sneaking suspicion that someone will eventually discover ecological parallels between these mushrooms. It may turn out to be the case that the way these mushrooms produce and disperse spores (from the rain-dependent earthstar, to the bug-dependent stinkhorns and the air-current-dependent corals and Gomphus species) will be less important as an indicator of relationship than the bigger-picture ecological conditions under which the mushrooms have been selected for these spore dispersal strategies.

Resulting Taxonomy

The Phallales, previously an order containing only stinkhorns (in the families Phallaceae and Clathraceae) is expanded in the current Dictionary of the Fungi, as a result of DNA studies like the one represented above, to include the following families:



Kirk, P.M. et al., eds. (2001). Ainsworth & Bisby's dictionary of the fungi. Oxford: CAB International. 655 pp.

Moncalvo, J. M., et al. (2002). One hundred and seventeen clades of euagarics. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 23: 357400.

Pine, E. M. et al. (1999). Phylogenetic relationships of cantharelloid and clavarioid Homobasidiomycetes based on mitochondrial and nuclear rDNA sequences. Mycologia 91: 944-963.

Cite this page as:

Kuo, M. (2004, November). The Phallales. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site:

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