Temporal range: Neoproterozoic–Recent
Scientific classification
Domain: Eukaryota
(unranked): Unikonta
(unranked): Opisthokonta

see text

The opisthokonts (Greek: ὀπίσθιος (opísthios) = "rear, posterior" + κοντός (kontós) = "pole" i.e. "flagellum") or "Fungi/Metazoa group"[1] are a broad group of eukaryotes, including both the animal and fungus kingdoms,[2] together with the eukaryotic microorganisms that are sometimes grouped in the paraphyletic phylum Choanozoa (previously assigned to the protist "kingdom").[3] Both genetic and ultrastructural studies strongly support that opisthokonts form a monophyletic group.



One common characteristic of opisthokonts is that flagellate cells, such as most animal sperm and chytrid spores, propel themselves with a single posterior flagellum. This gives the group its name. In contrast, flagellate cells in other eukaryote groups propel themselves with one or more anterior flagella.


The close relationship between animals and fungi was suggested by Cavalier-Smith in 1987,[4] who used the informal name opisthokonta (the formal name has been used for the chytrids), and was confirmed by later genetic studies.[5]

Early phylogenies placed them near the plants and other groups that have mitochondria with flat cristae, but this character varies.

Cavalier-Smith and Stechmann[6] argue that the uniciliate eukaryotes such as opisthokonts and Amoebozoa, collectively called unikonts, split off from the other biciliate eukaryotes, called bikonts, shortly after they evolved.


Opisthokonts are divided into Holomycota or Nucletmycea (fungi and all organisms more closely related to fungi than to animals) and Holozoa (animals and all organisms more closely related to animals than to fungi); no opisthokonts basal to the Holomycota/Holozoa split have yet been identified. Holomycota and Holozoa are composed of the following groups.

  • Holomycota
    • Fungi
      • including chytrids (previously thought to be protists)
      • including microsporidia (previously thought to be protists)
      • including Hyaloraphidium (previously thought to be a green alga, now thought to be a chytrid)
      • excluding oomycetes (water molds) (now thought to be stramenopiles)
      • excluding labyrinthulomycetes (slime nets) (now thought to be stramenopiles)
      • excluding myxomycetes (now thought to be amoebozoans)
    • Rozellida
    • Fonticulida (fonticulid slime molds)
    • Nucleariida or Cristidiscoidea (nucleariid amoebae)
  • Holozoa

The paraphyletic taxon Choanozoa includes either non-animal holozoans, or non-animal, non-fungi opisthokonts.

The choanoflagellates have a circular mitochondrial DNA genome with long intergenic regions. This is four times as large and contains two times as many protein genes as do animal mitochondrial mitochondria.

Corallochytrium seem likely to be more closely related to the fungi than to the animals on the basis of the presence of ergosterol in their membranes and being capable of synthesis of lysine via the AAA pathway.

The ichthyosporeans have a two amino acid deletion in their elongation factor 1 α gene that is considered characteristic of fungi.

The ichthyosporean mitochondrial genome is >200 kilobase pairs in length and consists of several hundred linear chromosomes that share elaborate terminal-specific sequence patterns.

One hypothesis of eukaryote relationships










One view of the great kingdoms and their stem groups.[7]


  1. ^ "Fungi/Metazoa group". http://www.uniprot.org/taxonomy/33154. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  2. ^ Shalchian-Tabrizi K, Minge MA, Espelund M, et al. (2008). Aramayo, Rodolfo. ed. "Multigene phylogeny of choanozoa and the origin of animals". PLoS ONE 3 (5): e2098. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002098. PMC 2346548. PMID 18461162. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0002098. 
  3. ^ Steenkamp ET, Wright J, Baldauf SL (January 2006). "The protistan origins of animals and fungi". Mol. Biol. Evol. 23 (1): 93–106. doi:10.1093/molbev/msj011. PMID 16151185. http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=16151185. 
  4. ^ Cavalier-Smith, T. (1987). "The origin of fungi and pseudofungi". In Rayner, Alan D. M. (ed.). Evolutionary biology of Fungi. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. pp. 339–353. ISBN 0-521-33050-5. 
  5. ^ Wainright PO, Hinkle G, Sogin ML, Stickel SK (April 1993). "Monophyletic origins of the metazoa: an evolutionary link with fungi". Science 260 (5106): 340–2. Bibcode 1993Sci...260..340W. doi:10.1126/science.8469985. PMID 8469985. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=8469985. 
  6. ^ Stechmann, A.; Cavalier-Smith, T. (2002). "Rooting the eukaryote tree by using a derived gene fusion". Science 297 (5578): 89–91. doi:10.1126/science.1071196. PMID 12098695. 
  7. ^ Phylogeny based on:

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