Mol Ecol 2012 Jun 9;21(11):2816-28. Epub 2012 Apr 9.
Department of Genetics, Plant Sciences Group, Wageningen University and Research, Droevendaalsesteeg 1, 6708 PB Wageningen, the Netherlands.
Evolutionary theory predicts that senescence--a decline in reproduction and survival with increasing age--can evolve as a trade-off between investment in reproduction on one side and in somatic maintenance and repair on the other. The ecology of a species is crucial because it provides the external causes of death that determine the statistical limit to a species' lifespan. Filamentous fungi are generally believed to be nonsenescent, and there are indeed spectacular examples of very old fungal individuals in nature. However, some fungi utilize ephemeral resources, and therefore, senescence is expected to have evolved, like in the coprophilic Podospora anserina, the only well-studied filamentous fungus with intrinsic senescence. Here, we hypothesize that rapid senescence is more common in fungi than generally believed and that the phylogenetic distribution of senescence correlates with ecology. We collected lifespan data for a set of Sordariomycetes and constructed phylogenies based on several nuclear sequences. Several of the strains were from the CBS culture collection, originally isolated from various substrates, some of which ephemeral. In addition, we isolated new strains from short-lived substrates. Senescence was observed throughout the phylogeny. Correlation tests support the hypothesis that in the Sordariomycetes, senescence is a trait that has arisen in response to ephemeral substrates, and that it has evolved repeatedly and independently along the phylogeny.