Wu, XD (reprint author), State Key Lab Phytochem & Plant Resources West Ch, 132 Lanhei Rd, Kunming 650201, Peoples R China.
Sooty moulds are a remarkable, but poorly understood group of fungi. They coat fruits and leaves superficially with black mycelia, which reduces photosynthesis rates of host plants. Few researchers have, however, tried to quantify their economic importance. Sooty moulds have been well-studied at the morphological level, but they are poorly represented in a natural classification based on phylogeny. Representatives are presently known in Antennulariellaceae, Capnodiaceae, Chaetothyriaceae, Coccodiniaceae, Euantennariaceae, Metacapnodiaceae and Trichomeriaceae and several miscellaneous genera. However, molecular data is available for only five families. Most sooty mould colonies comprise numerous species and thus it is hard to confirm relationships between genera or sexual and asexual states. Future studies need to obtain single spore isolates of species to test their phylogenetic affinities and linkages between morphs. Next generation sequencing has shown sooty mould colonies to contain many more fungal species than expected, but it is not clear which species are dominant or active in the communities. They are more common in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions and thus their prevalence in temperate regions is likely to increase with global warming. Sooty moulds are rarely parasitized by fungicolous taxa and these may have biocontrol potential. They apparently grow in extreme environments and may be xerophilic. This needs testing as xerophilic taxa may be of interest for industrial applications. Sooty moulds grow on sugars and appear to out-compete typical "weed" fungi and bacteria. They may produce antibiotics for this purpose and their biochemical potential for obtaining novel bioactive compounds for medical application is underexplored.