Phylogeography of northern tropical Australian macrofungi

Project summary

Few studies on the origins of Australian macrofungi have been published. Active collecting in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia over the past nine years has led to the discovery of novel species and evidence of links between northern tropical and southern Australian macrofungi, but also to SE Asian species groups. While collections from southern Australia are fairly extensive, those from western and central northern tropical Australia are still sparse. This project aims to provide the first comprehensive analysis of patterns in the distribution of northern tropical Australian macrofungi, their species diversity and phylogeography through molecular analyses of samples collected during expeditions to the Northern Territory and Queensland. . 

The first of two planned field expeditions to the Northern Territory (around Darwin) took place from 19 January – 02 February 2014, during the rainy season. Our team made 424 collections of fungi (estimated at ~280 species), nearly quadrupling the number of recorded collections from this region. Two fungal barcode regions (ITS and LSU rDNA) are now publicly available in GenBank. Four smaller scale expeditions to far north Queensland have provided further collections and DNA data. We are currently sequencing the accepted fungal barcode regions of ITS and LSU rDNA from these collections. These data will allow us to more accurately assess and compare the biodiversity of macrofungi from this region to other regions of Australia and Asia. Additional multi-locus datasets are being generated for specific focal taxon groups to more accurately assess their phylogeographic structuring.

Preliminary results from this project show that

  • Tropical macrofungal diversity in Australia is high
  • Many lineages of fungi in southern Australia are also present in northern Australia, but some genera do appear to be solely tropical-subtropical and others cool temperate-southern
  • A number of ectomycorrhizal genera (e.g. Amanita, Cantherellus, Cortinarius) appear to be more common and diverse in tropical Australia than expected

Project team

  • Gregory Bonito (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, 2013–2014; Michigan State University 2015-current)
  • Teresa Lebel (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria)
  • Naveed Davoodian (Postdoc 2018–2020, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria)
  • Matthew Barrett (King’s Park and Botanic Garden; ATH)
  • Sapphire McMullan Fisher (Fungi4Land)
  • Fran Guard (Dilkusha, Queensland)
  • Roy Halling (New York Botanic Gardens)
  • Pamela Catcheside (South Australian Herbarium)
  • Jerry Cooper (Landcare Research Co)


  • Helen McLellan Research Grant
  • BushBlitz/ABRS (Austropaxillus grant)
  • BushBlitz/ABRS (Pycnoporus grant 2018)