IMAGE: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, BRIAN ROBERT MARSHALLCrop-threatening fungus
Species: A pathogenic fungus, Leptosphaeria maculansGenome size: 45 million base pairsInteresting fact: This fungus causes stem canker in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and bok choy, and is a major threat to oilseed rape, which is used to produce canola oil, animal feed, and biofuel.
T. Rouxel, et al., "Effector diversification within compartments of the Leptosphaeria maculans genome affected by Repeat-Induced Point mutations,"Nature Communications 2: 202, 2011.
Attack of the killer algae
Species: A golden alga, Aureococcus anophagefferensGenome size: 56 million base pairsInteresting fact: This species, which causes brown tides that threaten fisheries and coastal marine life, has a larger genome than other...
C.J. Gobler, et al., "Niche of harmful alga Aureococcus anophagefferens revealed through ecogenomics," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108: 4352-4357, 2011.
A tricki parasite
Species: Trichina worm, Trichinella spiralisGenome size: 64 million base pairsInteresting fact: After ingestion by meat-eating mammals, Trichinella spiralis larvae incubate in the intestine before they travel through the bloodstream to muscle, where they encyst and wait to be ingested by a predator of their host to continue their lifecycle -- such as when people eat pigs.
M. Mitreva, et al., "The draft genome of the parasitic nematode Trichinella spiralis," Nature Genetics 43, 228-35, 2011
An algal chloroplast
Species: Chloroplast of a green alga, Bryopsis hypnoidesGenome size: 153,000 base pairsInteresting fact: If the cell wall of this single-celled alga breaks, the extruded protoplasm can regenerate into a new individual -- one that can grow up to three times the size of the original.
F. Lu, et al., "The Bryopsis hypnoides Plastid Genome: Multimeric Forms and Complete Nucleotide Sequence," PLoS ONE 6(2): e14663, 2011.
Two pathogenic leaf rust fungi
Species: Wheat stem rust fungus, Puccinia graminisGenome size: 88.6 million base pairs Interesting fact: In 1999, a new strain of this rust fungus known as UG99 emerged and evolved to overcome the resistance that had been bred into wheat in the 1960s, allowing it to spread via wind from Uganda to Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Iran, and now toward Pakistan and India.
Species: Poplar leaf rust fungus, Melampsora larici-populinaGenome size: 101.1 million base pairsInteresting fact: The fungus infects poplar trees and forms spores in golden balls on the surface of leaves, reducing the photosynthetic ability of the tree and its ability to reproduce.
S. Duplessis et al., "Obligate biotrophy features unraveled by the genomic analysis of rust fungi," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1019315108, 2011.