The fossil record of Peronosporomycetes (water moulds) is rather sparse, though their distinctive ornamentation means they are probably better reported than some true fungal groups. Here we describe a rare Palaeozoic occurrence of this group from a Guadalupian (Middle Permian) silicified peat deposit in the Bainmedart Coal Measures, Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica. Specimens are numerous and comprise two morphologically distinct kinds of ornamented oogonia, of which some are attached to hyphae by a septum. Combresomyces caespitosus sp. nov. consists of spherical oogonia bearing densely spaced, long, hollow, slender, conical papillae with multiple sharply pointed, strongly divergent, apical branches that commonly form a pseudoreticulate pattern under optical microscopy. The oogonia are attached to a parental hypha by a short truncated stalk with a single septum. Combresomyces rarus sp. nov. consists of spherical oogonia bearing widely spaced, hollow, broad, conical papillae that terminate in a single bifurcation producing a pair of acutely divergent sharply pointed branches. The oogonium bears a short truncate extension where it attaches to the parental hypha. We propose that similarities in oogonium shape, size, spine morphology and hyphal attachment between the Permian forms from the Prince Charles Mountains and other reported Peronosporomycetes from Devonian to Triassic strata at widely separated localities elsewhere in the world delimit an extinct but once cosmopolitan Palaeozoic to early Mesozoic branch of the peronosporomycete clade. We name this order Combresomycetales and note that it played an important role in late Palaeozoic and early Mesozoic peatland ecosystems worldwide.
2013. Vol. 8, e70707