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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Phylogenetic relationships in Cortinarius, section Calochroi, inferred from nuclear DNA sequences

Sigisfredo Garnica1*, Michael Weiß1, Bernhard Oertel2, Joseph Ammirati3 and Franz Oberwinkler1

Author Affiliations

1 Lehrstuhl für Spezielle Botanik und Mykologie, Botanisches Institut, Universität Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 1, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany

2 IRES Gartenbauwissenschaft, Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 6, D-53121 Bonn, Germany

3 Department of Biology, Box 355325, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-5325, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:1  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-1

Published: 2 January 2009



Section Calochroi is one of the most species-rich lineages in the genus Cortinarius (Agaricales, Basidiomycota) and is widely distributed across boreo-nemoral areas, with some extensions into meridional zones. Previous phylogenetic studies of Calochroi (incl. section Fulvi) have been geographically restricted; therefore, phylogenetic and biogeographic relationships within this lineage at a global scale have been largely unknown. In this study, we obtained DNA sequences from a nearly complete taxon sampling of known species from Europe, Central America and North America. We inferred intra- and interspecific phylogenetic relationships as well as major morphological evolutionary trends within section Calochroi based on 576 ITS sequences, 230 ITS + 5.8S + D1/D2 sequences, and a combined dataset of ITS + 5.8S + D1/D2 and RPB1 sequences of a representative subsampling of 58 species.


More than 100 species were identified by integrating DNA sequences with morphological, macrochemical and ecological data. Cortinarius section Calochroi was consistently resolved with high branch support into at least seven major lineages: Calochroi, Caroviolacei, Dibaphi, Elegantiores, Napi, Pseudoglaucopodes and Splendentes; whereas Rufoolivacei and Sulfurini appeared polyphyletic. A close relationship between Dibaphi, Elegantiores, Napi and Splendentes was consistently supported. Combinations of specific morphological, pigmentation and molecular characters appear useful in circumscribing clades.


Our analyses demonstrate that Calochroi is an exclusively northern hemispheric lineage, where species follow their host trees throughout their natural ranges within and across continents. Results of this study contribute substantially to defining European species in this group and will help to either identify or to name new species occurring across the northern hemisphere. Major groupings are in partial agreement with earlier morphology-based and molecular phylogenetic hypotheses, but some relationships were unexpected, based on external morphology. In such cases, their true affinities appear to have been obscured by the repeated appearance of similar features among distantly related species. Therefore, further taxonomic studies are needed to evaluate the consistency of species concepts and interpretations of morphological features in a more global context. Reconstruction of ancestral states yielded two major evolutionary trends within section Calochroi: (1) the development of bright pigments evolved independently multiple times, and (2) the evolution of abruptly marginate to flattened stipe bulbs represents an autapomorphy of the Calochroi clade.