The focus of this project is the ascomycete suborder Sarcoscyphineae of the Pezizales. There are two suborders of the Pezizales (or operculate discomycetes) the Pezizineae and the Sarcoscyphineae (Korf, 1970, Rifai, 1968). The suborders are delimited by characters of ascus wall structure and cytology. The Sarcoscyphineae are the so-called "suboperculate" discomycetes, and are believed to be monophyletic based on ultrastructure characters of ascus walls and apices (Samuelson, 1975) and cytology of ascospores and paraphyses (Berthet, 1964). The clade is now said to be comprised of 2 families (the Sarcoscyphaceae and the Sarcosomataceae), 24 genera (8-10 of which have been considered monotypic), and about 90 species. An arrangement of the genera into tribes was proposed by Korf (1972,1973) and Denison (1972). All are thought to be general decomposers and their ascomata occur on wood or other durable substrates. A few have been determined to be plant pathogenic (Davidson, 1950). Because life histories have not been studied, the ecological role of most of these fungi are conjecture.
Even though Sarcosyphineae are relatively well known, the group is far from completely known; new taxa remain to be described and life histories, developmental patterns, and associations with other components of the ecosystem remain to be discovered. Phylogenetic relationships within the group are poorly understood, and its placement in relationship to the other Pezizales has not been fully investigated. In fact the classification of the order as a whole is based primarily on the treatment by Korf (1972,1973), a system that has not been re-evaluated for nearly 25 years. Only two genera of the suborder, Wynnea (Pfister, 1979) Sarcoscypha (Harrington 1996), have been treated in detail.
A world-wide monograph of the suborder will be carried out. The monograph will include descriptions, identification keys, nomenclatural information, illustrations, specimen citations and distribution records. Where possible developmental characters will be included (see Pfister, 1978b, for information on developmental patterns in the Sarcoscyphaceae and Sarcosomataceae). Included in the monograph will be information on anamorphs, vegetative compatibility and other life history information. Numerical phenetic studies were carried out by Cabello (1988) based on descriptions in the literature, not on the study of specimens or molecular data. Our study will produce an entirely new, well-documented classification of the subfamily which will set the stage for monographic work in other ascomycete groups. The general questions that we will address, include:
1) Are the presently recognized families monophyletic?
2) Is the recognition of the relatively high proportion of monotypic genera (8 out of 22) justifiable, or has this rendered the larger genera paraphyletic?
3) Are there patterns of distribution and ecology that reflect the phylogenetic history of the group?