Fungi are key players in extreme ecosystems

Trends Ecol Evol. 2022 Jun;37(6):517-528. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2022.02.002. Epub 2022 Mar 1.


Extreme environments on Earth are typically devoid of macro life forms and are inhabited predominantly by highly adapted and specialized microorganisms. The discovery and persistence of these extremophiles provides tools to model how life arose on Earth and inform us on the limits of life. Fungi, in particular, are among the most extreme-tolerant organisms with highly versatile lifestyles and stunning ecological and morphological plasticity. Here, we overview the most notable examples of extremophilic and stress-tolerant fungi, highlighting their key roles in the functionality and balance of extreme ecosystems. The remarkable ability of fungi to tolerate and even thrive in the most extreme environments, which preclude most organisms, have reshaped current concepts regarding the limits of life on Earth.

Keywords: adaptation; extreme environments; extremophiles; fungi; habitability.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Earth, Planet
  • Ecosystem*
  • Extreme Environments
  • Extremophiles*
  • Fungi