Black microcolonial fungi (MCF) and black yeasts are among the most stress-resistant eukaryotic organisms known on Earth. They mainly inhabit bare rock surfaces in hot and cold deserts of all regions of the Earth, but some of them have a close phylogenetic relation to human pathogenic black fungi which makes them important model organisms also with respect to clinical mycology. The environment of those fungi is especially characterized by extreme changes from humidity to long periods of desiccation and extreme temperature differences. A key to the understanding of MCF ecology is the question about metabolic activity versus dormancy in the natural environments. In this study, the time lag from the desiccated state to rehydration and full metabolic activity and growth was measured and defined in accordance with simulated environmental conditions. The ability to survive after desiccation and the speed of rehydration as well as changes of the whole cell protein pattern are demonstrated. Whereas both mesophilic strains-Exophiala jeanselmei and Knufia perforans (=Coniosporium perforans)-show a clear reaction toward desiccation by production of small proteins, Cryomyces antarcticus-the extremotolerant MCF-does not show any response to desiccation but seems just to down-regulate its metabolism. Data on intracellular sugar suggest that both trehalose and mannitol might play a cell protective role in those fungi. Â© 2012 The Author(s).