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Taxonomy and Phylogeny:
Mycotypha africana, also known as Mircotypha africana, was first discovered in Southern Rodesia in a woodland community (1). Rodesia once existed in the region of Africa that is now known as Zimbabwe. The species was first described in a 1963 paper by R. Novak and P. Backus during this study they stored the specimen in multiple locations around the globe finding it best to clone and grow the organism on potato dextrose agar(1). M. africana is a Zygomycota indicating it as the first group in the fungal phylogenetic tree to lose flagella in its spore forms(2).
Interestingly although M. africana has been designated as a zygomycete it was recently used to determine a new phylogenetic branch. This species is from the domain Eukaryota kingdom Fungi, subkingdom Eomycota, phylum of Mucoromycota, order Mucorales, Family Mycotyphaceae, genus Mycotypha(3). This species although rarely studied, is phylogenetically unique and due to these features has been used in a few studies. Also due to the preservation from the original preservers of the specimen and distribution they ensured it has been easily accessible for phylogenetic studies.
Asexually the organism produces sporangiospores from both sporangia and sporangioles. The sporangia of this species contains multiple spores while the sporangioles only contain a small amount of spores (4). The genus name Mycotypha derives into the meaning “fungal cattail”. This can be observed in the cattail like sporangia that contribute to its asexual reproduction (5). Although later it has been observed that two distinct forms of sporangia can be formed by this organism. This is seen as sporangia in both a spherical and elongated form (6). Looking into the asexual sproangioles of this species some researchers have suggested that there could be reason to classify Mycotypha genus under Thamnidiaceae (7).
Sexually the organism reproduces with a zygospore like other zygomycetes. However, it has been noted that the organism can be both homo and hetero thallic when reproducing. This indicates it can reproduce sexually with itself and other individuals (8).
An interesting feature of M. africana is the fact that it’s dimporphic. This allows it to grow in a single-celled yeast form in anaerobic conditions and a multicellular mold like form in aerobic conditions. However, the organism has shown a preference towards the anaerobic conditions growing more readily as a single-celled yeast like form (9). Due to this ability to grow in both anaerobic and aerobic conditions, the organism seems to have adapted to survive in a wide array of potential habitats.
M. africana does not seem to have a problem establishing survival on a large range of agar medias (1). This could imply that the species is saprophytic at least in some stages because it does not require a living host in order to live. However, there is little research that has been done into designating if this species does have some kind of pathogenic effect on other organisms. One study has shown M. africana to be avirulent when present in a mammalian system, of small mice (10). This information was extrapolated to imply that there was little effect on other mammalian species.
This species has been isolated in arid soils in Iraq (11) and was originally isolated from soils in Zimbabwe (1). There have been no samples showing the organism living in aquatic habitat. Considering it has only been found in arid conditions, it is currently known to be a terrestrial organism. Currently the organism is stored in locations around the world.
Overall Biology and Relevance to Human
There are currently no signs that this organism has an economic significance to humans. Little has been used from it’s presence other than the genetic information to help determine phylogenetic distinctions of other organisms and their relative relations. It is also lacking any cultural history other than in the scientific community in which it was discovered. There was one discovery of a Mycotypha species within a leukemia patients fecal matter however it was not of this species (12).