Darksidea is a common genus of dark septate fungi-a group of ascomycetes in semiarid regions. A survey reported D. alpha and a distinct Darksidea lineage as abundant root-associated fungi of foundational grasses in North America. Fungi were isolated, and metabarcode data were obtained from sequencing of fungal communities of grass roots in the United States. During a comprehensive investigation of the Darksidea lineage, we carried out polyphasic taxonomy, genomic characterization, and identification of host associations, geographic distribution, and environmental factors that correlate with its abundance. For molecular phylogenetic studies, seven loci were sequenced. Isolates of the distinct Darksidea had variable colony morphology. No sexual reproductive structures were detected, but chlamydospores were frequently observed. The complete genome of an isolate of the lineage was sequenced with a size of 52.3 Mb including 14 707 gene models. Based on morphology and phylogenetic analysis, we propose the novel species Darksidea phi, sp. nov. Metabarcoding data showed that D. phi distribution and relative abundance were not limited to semiarid regions or a specific grass species, suggesting low host specificity among graminoids. This new species, D. phi, expands the distribution of the genus in the United States beyond prior reports from arid regions.
Keywords: 1 new taxon; Andropogon; Bouteloua; Illumina sequencing; Schizachyrium; dark septate endophytes; fungal biogeography; plant symbionts.