Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology


Life Sciences

First Advisor

Jeanmaire Molina

Committee Chair and Members

Jeanmaire Molina, Chair

Joseph Morin

Timothy Leslie


Biology, Conservation biology, Ecology, Horticulture, Microbiology, Plant sciences


The plant microbiome exerts a profound influence on plant health, growth, and life cycle. This ecosystem comprises diverse microbial communities, such as symbiotic endophytes, mycorrhizal fungi, epiphytes, saprophytes, rhizobia, and pathogens, which inhabit parasitic and non-parasitic plants. Rafflesia speciosa, a holoparasitic plant, is a unique and endangered species that depends on its host Tetrastigma spp. for survival. In this study, fungal metagenomics was conducted to characterize the fungal community—the mycobiome within Rafflesia seeds, and a phylogeny was reconstructed. The ecophysiological characteristics of these fungal genera were also researched in the literature, and their primary ecological trait, whether plant mutualist, saprotroph, phytopathogen, mycoparasite, or entomopathogen, was mapped on the phylogeny to explore phylogenetic patterns. The majority of the identified fungal genera were Ascomycete fungi. There was no phylogenetic pattern detected in the ecophysiological traits of Rafflesia seed fungi, suggesting that these traits have evolved repeatedly throughout the fungal phylogeny as ecological adaptations. Characterization of Rafflesia’s seed mycobiome allowed us to gain insights on the potential ecology of these fungi and possible roles and applications in the ex situ propagation and conservation of Rafflesia species.