What lies beneath? Fungal diversity at the bottom of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior

Hannah E. Wahl, Daniel B. Raudabaugh, Elizabeth M. Bach, Tiffany S. Bone, Mark R. Luttenton, Robert H. Cichewicz, Andrew N. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fungi are phylogenetically diverse organisms found in nearly every environment as key contributors to the processes of nutrient cycling and decomposition. To date, most fungal diversity has been documented from terrestrial habitats leaving aquatic habitats underexplored. In particular, comparatively little is known about fungi inhabiting freshwater lakes, particularly the benthic zone, which may serve as an untapped resource for fungal biodiversity. Advances in technology allowing for direct sequencing of DNA from environmental samples provide a new opportunity to investigate freshwater benthic fungi. In this study, we employed both culture-dependent and culture-independent methods to evaluate the diversity of fungi in one of the largest freshwater systems on Earth, the North American Laurentian Great Lakes. This study presents the first comprehensive survey of fungi from sediment from Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, resulting in 465 fungal taxa with only 7% of sequence overlap between these two methods. Additionally, culture-independent analyses of the ITS1 and ITS2 regions revealed 49% and 72%, respectively, of the OTUs did not match a described fungal taxonomic group below kingdom Fungi. The low level of sequence overlap between methods and high percentage of fungal taxa that can only be classified at the kingdom level suggests an immense amount of fungal diversity remains to be studied in these aquatic fungal communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-270
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Aquatic fungi
  • Ascomycota
  • Basidiomycota
  • Freshwater
  • Great Lakes
  • Next-gen sequencing
  • Systematics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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