Symbiosis

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 47–56

Hiding in a crowd—does diversity facilitate persistence of a low-quality fungal partner in the mycorrhizal symbiosis?

  • Miranda M. Hart
  • Jennifer Forsythe
  • Brian Oshowski
  • Heike Bücking
  • Jan Jansa
  • E. Toby Kiers
Article

Abstract

Given that arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are not consistently beneficial to their host plants, it is difficult to explain the evolutionary persistence of this relationship. We tested the hypothesis that increasing either fungal or host biodiversity allows an AM fungus to persist on a host where it shows little benefit. We found that growing such a fungus (an isolate of Glomus custos associating with Plantago laceolata) in combination with certain fungi improved its success as measured by mtLSU DNA abundance. Increasing plant species richness facilitated the spread of this fungus as measured by spore density and fungal colonization; the role of host species richness was not as clear when looking at measures of root abundance. These results indicate that diversity in the AM symbiosis, both plant and fungal, can promote the persistence of low-quality fungi. By existing within a complex mycelial network fungal strains that show little growth benefit to their hosts have a better chance of persisting on that same host. This has the potential to promote selection for heterogeneous AM fungal communities on a small spatial scale.

Keywords

Mutualism Host detection Cheaters Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Biodiversity Common mycelial network 

Supplementary material

13199_2012_197_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (67 kb)
SI Table 1(PDF 66 kb)
13199_2012_197_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (57 kb)
SI Table 2(PDF 57 kb)
13199_2012_197_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (34 kb)
SI Table 3(PDF 34 kb)
13199_2012_197_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (189 kb)
SI Fig. 1(PDF 188 kb)
13199_2012_197_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (329 kb)
SI Fig. 2(PDF 329 kb)
13199_2012_197_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (21 kb)
SI Fig. 3(PDF 20 kb)
13199_2012_197_MOESM7_ESM.pdf (16 kb)
SI Fig. 4(PDF 19 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miranda M. Hart
    • 1
  • Jennifer Forsythe
    • 1
  • Brian Oshowski
    • 1
  • Heike Bücking
    • 2
  • Jan Jansa
    • 3
  • E. Toby Kiers
    • 4
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentUniversity of British Columbia OkanaganKelownaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biology and MicrobiologySouth Dakota State UniversityBrookingsUSA
  3. 3.Institute of MicrobiologyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPraha 4 – KrčCzech Republic
  4. 4.Institute of Ecological ScienceVrije UniversiteitAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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