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Evolution of mycorrhiza systems


 Most terrestrial plants live in mutualistic symbiosis with root-infecting mycorrhizal fungi. Fossil records and molecular clock dating suggest that all extant land plants have arisen from an ancestral arbuscular mycorrhizal condition. Arbuscular mycorrhizas evolved concurrently with the first colonisation of land by plants some 450–500 million years ago and persist in most extant plant taxa. Ectomycorrhizas (about 200 million years ago) and ericoid mycorrhizas (about 100 million years ago) evolved subsequently as the organic matter content of some ancient soils increased and sclerophyllous vegetation arose as a response to nutrient-poor soils respectively. Mycorrhizal associations appear to be the result of relatively diffuse coevolutionary processes. While early events in the evolution of mycorrhizal symbioses may have involved reciprocal genetic changes in ancestral plants and free-living fungi, available evidence points largely to ongoing parallel evolution of the partners in response to environmental change.

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Cairney, J. Evolution of mycorrhiza systems. Naturwissenschaften 87, 467–475 (2000).

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