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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Forage Seed and Cereal Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #310964

Research Project: Disease Modeling and Genetic Approaches to Enhance Wheat and Grass Seed Crop Biosecurity

Location: Forage Seed and Cereal Research

Title: One hundred million year old ergot: psychotropic compounds in the Cretaceous?

Author
item Poinar, G - Oregon State University
item Alderman, Stephen
item Wunderlich, J - Private Laboratory Of Arachnology

Submitted to: Palaeodiversity
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/14/2014
Publication Date: 8/31/2015
Citation: Poinar, G., Alderman, S.C., Wunderlich, J. 2015. One hundred million year old ergot: psychotropic compounds in the Cretaceous?. Palaeodiversity. 8:13-19.

Interpretive Summary: A specimen of the fungal pathogen Claviceps, commonly known as ergot, was found in Early Cretaceous Myanmar amber. The fungus was assigned a new name, Paleoclaviceps parasiticus. This report establishes the occurrence of ergot 100 million years ago and that the original hosts of ergot were grass plants.

Technical Abstract: A fungal sclerotium similar to sclerotia of the genus Claviceps, commonly known as ergot, was found infecting a grass kernel in Early Cretaceous Myanmar amber. This represents the first fossil record of ergot dating as far back as the Cretaceous period. The fungus, described as Palaeoclaviceps parasiticus gen. n., sp. n. is characterized by an erect black sclerotium with flattened hyphal outgrowths and adjacent conidia consistent in morphology with Claviceps. Claviceps spp. are floral pathogens of grasses and transform each infected grass kernel into a characteristic enlarged, often elongated, sclerotium. Lobed hyphal outgrowths on the distal end of the sclerotium are more pronounced on Palaeoclaviceps than on all extant species of Claviceps or other sclerotium-producing fungi in the Clavicipitaceae. This fossil establishes the presence of ergot 100 MYA, suggesting that the original hosts of the Clavicipitaceae were grass plants and that both pathogen and host groups dates back to the Early Cretaceous.