Project description:The evolutionary history, divergence times and phylogenetic relationships of Uleiella chilensis (Ustilaginomycotina, smut fungi) associated with Araucaria araucana were analysed. DNA sequences from multiple gene regions and morphology were analysed and compared to other members of the Basidiomycota to determine the phylogenetic placement of smut fungi on gymnosperms. Divergence time estimates indicate that the majority of smut fungal orders diversified during the Triassic-Jurassic period. However, the origin and relationships of several orders remain uncertain. The most recent common ancestor between Uleiella chilensis and Violaceomyces palustris has been dated to the Lower Cretaceous. Comparisons of divergence time estimates between smut fungi and host plants lead to the hypothesis that the early Ustilaginomycotina had a saprobic lifestyle. As there are only two extant species of Araucaria in South America, each hosting a unique Uleiella species, we suggest that either coevolution or a host shift followed by allopatric speciation are the most likely explanations for the current geographic restriction of Uleiella and its low diversity. Phylogenetic and age estimation analyses, ecology, the unusual life-cycle and the peculiar combination of septal and haustorial characteristics support Uleiella chilensis as a distinct lineage among the Ustilaginomycotina. Here, we describe a new ustilaginomycetous order, the Uleiellales to accommodate Uleiella. Within the Ustilaginomycetes, Uleiellales are sister taxon to the Violaceomycetales.