The filthy water feature is a mainstay of many a campus, be it shopping cart filled river, a grimy fountain, or the moat around Evil University. While we all expect some sort of shoggoth to stumble out one day, it turns out that these bodies of water could be incredibly beneficial to science. Researchers at the University of Exeter have found a "fungal missing link" in a pond on campus. In research published in Nature, they discuss the group of fungi that they've labelled "cryptomycota" — Greek for hidden fungi.
These microbes are living fossils, and represent an early type of fungi lacking one of the key features associated with the group: they don't have a tough outer cell wall, and they represent a previously unknown evolutionary branch. Now that these little fungi have been discovered, researchers are hard at work picking apart how they feed, reproduce and grow lacking what was thought to be a crucial part of anatomy.
Next time you see a drunken freshman vomiting into a water fountain, just think, they could be helping keep alive a previously unknown species!