Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Kyryll Savchenko

Second Advisor

Shelley Etnier


Rust fungi (Pucciniales) are a diverse group of fungi belonging to the phylum Basidiomycota. Rusts are obligate biotrophic parasites that infect vascular plants many of which have economic and agricultural importance such as legumes, wheat, and coffee crops (Helfer, 2013, Kolmer et al., 2009). In tropical regions of the world, only about 3-4% of the estimated Pucciniales species diversity is known (Piepenbring et al., 2011). This study aims to determine phylogenetic groupings of Pucciniales collected in Puerto Rico using molecular data and to compare this data to rust species previously identified in Cuba, a closely related tropical location in terms of their similar climates, ecosystems, plant diversity, and nearby geographic locations. DNA sequencing results led to the complete identification of 12 of the 24 host plant samples and the rusts that infected them. A phylogenetic tree was generated to demonstrate the close relationship of these identified species to others that were previously identified. Of these 12 identified samples, one novel record was discovered from Puerto Rico. Interestingly, when the identified Puerto Rican samples were compared to those recorded in Cuba, there was not a significant overlap of host plant-rust species combinations that were recorded in both tropical regions, despite their proximity and comparable climate. Further sequencing from additional gene regions and the collection of more samples are necessary to provide a better understanding of the biodiversity and phylogeny of Puerto Rican rusts and to compare them more accurately to related tropical locations.

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Biology Commons