Fungi and the Rise of Mammals

Komodo dragons MicrobiologyBytes likes a good hypothesis – one that really makes you think, even if there’s not much actual data to support it. So here’s one for you: fungi ate the reptiles?

“Here are two indisputable facts: we are living in the age of mammals, and immunologically intact mammals are highly resistant to fungal diseases, such that most human systemic fungal are considered “opportunistic”. Could these two facts be connected? The mammalian lifestyle is characterized by endothermy, homeothermy, and care for the young, including nourishment via lactation, all of which are energetically costly activities. In contrast, reptiles, which are ectotherms, require about one-tenth of the daily mammalian energy needs, and reptilian development is faster and requires less parental involvement. Given this energy handicap, how did mammals replace reptiles as the dominant land animals? This essay further develops the hypothesis originally proposed seven years ago that fungi contributed to the emergence of mammals by creating a fungal filter at the end of the Cretaceous that selected for the mammalian lifestyle and against reptiles.”


Fungi and the Rise of Mammals. (2012) PLoS Pathog 8(8): e1002808. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002808

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One Response to Fungi and the Rise of Mammals

  1. zzk says:

    Auturo came to my grad school micro class and gave this as a guest talk.. Interesting guy, if a bit nutty.

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