DNA barcoding is a powerful method for the identification of lichenized fungi groups for which the diversity is already well-represented in nucleotide databases, and an accurate, robust taxonomy has been established. However, the effectiveness of DNA barcoding for identification is expected to be limited for understudied taxa or regions. One such region is Antarctica, where, despite the importance of lichens and lichenized fungi identification, their genetic diversity is far from characterized. The aim of this exploratory study was to survey the lichenized fungi diversity of King George Island using a fungal barcode marker as an initial identification tool. Samples were collected unrestricted to specific taxa in coastal areas near Admiralty Bay. Most samples were identified using the barcode marker and verified up to the species or genus level with a high degree of similarity. A posterior morphological evaluation focused on samples with novel barcodes allowed for the identification of unknown Austrolecia, Buellia, and Lecidea s.l. species. These results contribute to better represent the lichenized fungi diversity in understudied regions such as Antarctica by increasing the richness of the nucleotide databases. Furthermore, the approach used in this study is valuable for exploratory surveys in understudied regions to guide taxonomic efforts towards species recognition and discovery.
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