This material is based partially upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under several grants. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Laboulbeniales: Intimate Associates of Arthropods Alexander Weir and Meredith Blackwell

Laboulbeniales Home Page / Phylogenetic Studies of Laboulbeniales / Methods / Literature / Mycology at LSU

Read the latest review on Laboulbeniales: A. Weir and M. Blackwell. December 2005. Fungal biotrophic parasites of insects and other arthropods. In INSECT-FUNGAL ASSOCIATIONS:Ecology and Evolution. Fernando E. Vega & Meredith Blackwell (Eds), Oxford University Press.

“This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought ? our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography ? breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other.  This passage quotes a “certain Chinese encyclopaedia” in which it is written that “animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs,(e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) etcetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.”  In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.” --Michel Foucault

From a long way off Labouls look like flies and red algae and basidiomycetes and zygomycetes

Figures: Left. A dissecting microscope view of ventral setae of a passalid beetle and two thalli of Rickia sp. at the tips. Second from left. Thalli of a dioecious species of Dioicomyces; two small male thalli, one of which is producing antheridia, and a single female thallus with sequentially-maturing ascospores, one of which has begun germination and has a darkened attachment region. Third from left. Dichomyces biformis showing the complex structure and multiple perithecia of ten thalli.  Fourth from left. Laboulbeniopsis termitarius, four cells at the tip of a termite antenna, smallest of the Laboulbeniales. Right. Dark attachment region of the ascospores of Pyxidiophora sp. on the mite disperser.  The rest of the elongated hyaline two-celled spores are not visible in this preparation. (The second and third photographs were made from microscopic slide mounts prepared by Roland Thaxter over ninety years ago.) Photographs by M. Blackwell

Members of Laboulbeniales are some of the most unusual fungi known. This order of ascomycetous fungi consists of over 2 000 species that have obligate associations with arthropods, mostly insects. They lack mycelium and the entire thallus (body) is derived from enlargement and subsequent cell divisions of the two-celled ascospore. The thallus is of determinate growth and may have plume-like structures and triggers that help in ascospore release when the arthropod comes into contact with a mature thallus. Below the surface of the arthropod cuticle absorption through a peg- or root-like haustorium provides a nutrition source for the fungus; however, the fungal parasites of this group do not appear to cause much damage to the host.

These fungi have had a controversial taxonomic history and have played a central role in phylogenetic arguments on the origin of higher fungi, whensome mycologists believed them to be derived from floridean red algae. In addition a few were considered to be insect-parasitic worms when they were first discovered. Members of four families (Herpomycetaceae, Laboulbeniaceae, Ceratomycetaceae, Euceratomycetaceae) are obligate biotrophs of insects, mites, and millipedes. A fifth family that has been included in the order by some workers, Pyxidiophoraceae, is morphologically distinct because the species produce mycelium and are mycoparasites in the filamentous stage with an arthropod-associated phoretic stage that may be biotrophic. The link between Laboulbeniales and Pyxidiophoraceae first was suggested on the basis of comparative life histories and common morphology of asci development and ascospores. More recently phylogenetic analysis of molecular characters has supported the relationship.  However, althought the clade is excluded from the main group of perithical ascomycetes, its position among loculoascomycetes and discomycetes is not well resolved.

Phylogenetic Studies of Laboulbeniales
There is little information on  relationships within the Laboulbeniales, although Pyxidiophoraceae occurs as the sister taxon of species of two families (Herpomycetaceae and Laboulbeniaceae) based on phylogenetic analysis of characters derived from small subunit ribosomal DNA (Blackwell, M. 1994. Minute mycological mysteries: The influence of arthropods on the lives of fungi. Mycologia 86:1-17). 

Biogeography The species of Laboulbeniales have been described mostly from insects , especially beetles and flies, in temperate regions. A recent study has assessed numbers of Laboulbeniales from beetles collected in North Sulawesi, and indicates that tropical diversity may be high because host species are numerous. However, tropical regions have not been well collected for Laboulbeniales (Table 1) (Weir, A. and P.M. Hammond (1997b). Laboulbeniales on beetles: host utilization patterns and species richness of the parasites. Biodiversity and Conservation 6: 701-719.)
 Megadiversity country   Number of species  % known species


         World Wide





Table 1. Approximate number of species collected from megadiversity countries (McNeely, J. A.,  K.R. Miller, W. V. Reid, R. A. Werner, and T. B. Werner. 1990. Conserving the world’s biological diversity. International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Gland, Switzerland).

Hosts of Laboulbeniales Laboulbenialean host distribution is more restricted than has been appreciated previously. Not all insects serve as hosts and, although beetles are the most frequent host group, not all beetle groups serve as hosts.  Hexapoda (90% of the known species of Laboulbeniales have been found only on adult beetles or flies, mainly the former. Within the major host  group, Coleoptera, only 12 of the 24 currently recognized superfamilies of beetles have been reported as hosts for these fungi).
Blattoidea (cockroaches and allies) 
Coleoptera (beetles) 
Dermaptera (earwigs) 
Diptera (true flies)
Heteroptera (bugs)
Formicidae (ants) 
Isoptera (termites) 
Mallophaga (bird lice)
Orthoptera (crickets and allies)
Thysanoptera (thrips) 
Acarina (mites) 
Diplopoda (millipedes) 

LA-Laboulbeniales The following Laboulbeniales were collected in the Baton Rouge area, and most are new records for the gulf south of the USA.  They are currently being studied at by Alex Weir at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Acallomyces  sp.
Bordea sp. nov. (in press (R.K. Benjamin, Aliso)
Botryandromyces ornatus
Ceratomyces mirabilis
Chitonomyces psittocopsis (known previously only from Florida)
Coreomyces spp. (at least 4 species)
Corethromyces sp. nov.
Dimeromyces anisolabis
Dimorphomyces sp.
Dioicomyces sp.
Distolomyces forficulae
Herpomyces spp.
Hesperomyces coccinelloides
Hesperomyces virescens
Homaromyces epieri
Ilytheomyces sp. (first record of this genus in US)
Kyphomyces sp.
Laboulbenia spp. (at least 8 species)
Monoicomyces sp.
Rhachomyces sp.
Rhadinomyces pallidus
Rhynchophoromyces minor
Rickia passalina (and 2 other spp.)
Sphaleromyces lathrobii
Stigmatomyces borealis
Stigmatomyces discocerinae
Stigmatomyces limnophorae
Stigmatomyces limosinae
Stigmatomyces paralimnae
Stigmatomyces parydrae
Stigmatomyces protrudens
Stigmatomyces purpureus
Teratomyces sp.
Zeugandromyces sp.
Zodiomyces vorticellarius

Students of Laboulbeniales  Few people in the world study Laboulbeniales.  We are compiling a directory, and if you would like to be included, please send an e-mail to M. Blackwell.
Meredith Blackwell <>
Department of Biological Sciences
Louisiana State University
LSB 508
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Tel: (504)388-8551
Fax: (504)388-8459 
André De Kesel

National Botanic Garden of Belgium
Domein van Bouchout
B-1860 MEISE
Tel: +32.2.2693905
Fax: +32.2.2701567 
Larry Huldén <>

Zoological Museum
Finnish Museum of Natural History
P.O.Box 17
Helsinki FIN-00014 
Yong-Bo Lee

Department of Biology
College of Education
Chosun University
375 Seosukdong,
Kwangju 501-759
T. Majewski

Department of Plant Pathology
Warsaw Agricultural University
Nowoursynowska 166
02-766 Warsaw
David Mitchell

Walter Rossi <>

Dipartimenti di Scienze Ambientali
Universita dell' Aquila
67010 Coppito
Sergi Santamaria <>

Unitat de Botnica
Dept. Biologia Animal, Biologia Vegetal I Ecologia
Facultat de Cincies
Univ. Autnoma de Barcelona
SP-08193-Bellaterra (Barcelona)
K. Terada

Omiya 1-2-20-203
Hiroshima 733
Isabelle I. Tavares

University Herbarium
1001 Valley Life Sci. Bldg. #2465
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-2465
Tel: (415) 642-2465 
 Keiichi Sugiyama

Faculty of Education
Shizuoka University
836 Oya Shizuoka
Alex Weir <>

Faculty of Environmental and Forest Biology
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
350 Illick Hall
1 Forestry Dr.
Syracuse, NY 13210-2788
Tel:  315-470-6791
Fax: 315-470-6934

Laboulbeniales Home Page / Phylogenetic Studies of Laboulbeniales / Methods / LiteratureMycology at LSU
Last Modified: 24 June 2005
Meredith Blackwell
Mycology at LSU