Background: Date palm has been a major fruit tree in the Middle East over thousands of years, especially in the Arabian Peninsula. Dates are consumed fresh (Rutab) or after partial drying and storage (Tamar) during off-season. The aim of the study was to provide in-depth analysis of fungal communities associated with the skin (outer part) and mesocarp (inner fleshy part) of stored dates (Tamar) of two cultivars (Khenizi and Burny) through the use of Illumina MiSeq sequencing. Results: The study revealed the dominance of Ascomycota (94%) in both cultivars, followed by Chytridiomycota (4%) and Zygomycota (2%). Among the classes recovered, Eurotiomycetes, Dothideomycetes, Saccharomycetes and Sordariomycetes were the most dominant. A total of 54 fungal species were detected, with species belonging to Penicillium, Alternaria, Cladosporium and Aspergillus comprising more than 60% of the fungal reads. Some potentially mycotoxin-producing fungi were detected in stored dates, including Aspergillus flavus, A. versicolor and Penicillium citrinum, but their relative abundance was very limited (<0.5%). PerMANOVA analysis revealed the presence of insignificant differences in fungal communities between date parts or date cultivars, indicating that fungal species associated with the skin may also be detected in the mesocarp. It also indicates the possible contamination of dates from different cultivars with similar fungal species, even though if they are obtained from different areas. Conclusion: The analysis shows the presence of different fungal species in dates. This appears to be the first study to report 25 new fungal species in Oman and 28 new fungal species from date fruits. The study discusses the sources of fungi on dates and the presence of potentially mycotoxin producing fungi on date skin and mesocarp.
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