Surprisingly, when they are grown together for a long time — around a month — some algal cells enter the fungal cells. Both organisms remain active and healthy in this relationship.
This is the first time scientists have seen fungi internalize a eukaryotic, photosynthetic organism. They call it a photosynthetic mycelium.
“This is a win-win situation. Both organisms get additional benefits from being together,” Du said. “They exchange nutrients, with a likely net flow of carbon from alga to fungus, and a net flow of nitrogen in the other direction. Interestingly, the fungus needs physical contact with living algal cells to get nutrients. Algal cells don’t need physical contact or living fungus to benefit from the interaction. Fungal cells, dead or alive, release nutrients in their surroundings.”
“Even better, when nutrients are scarce, algal and fungal cells grown together fend off starvation by feeding each other. They do better than when they are grown separately,” explained Du.
Perhaps this increased hardiness explains how algae survived the trek onto land. Paper. (open access) – Zhi-Yan Du, Krzysztof Zienkiewicz, Natalie Vande Pol, Nathaniel E Ostrom, Christoph Benning, Gregory M Bonito. Algal-fungal symbiosis leads to photosynthetic mycelium. eLife, 2019; 8 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.47815 More.
This is one likely vector but did all plants really need fungi to live on land?
See also: Researchers: Plants Colonized Earth 100 Mya Earlier Than Thought
Flowering Plants Pushed Back By A Mere 100 Million Years?
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