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Substrates of Peltigera Lichens as a Potential Source of Cyanobionts


Photobiont availability is one of the main factors determining the success of the lichenization process. Although multiple sources of photobionts have been proposed, there is no substantial evidence confirming that the substrates on which lichens grow are one of them. In this work, we obtained cyanobacterial 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences from the substrates underlying 186 terricolous Peltigera cyanolichens from localities in Southern Chile and maritime Antarctica and compared them with the sequences of the cyanobionts of these lichens, in order to determine if cyanobacteria potentially available for lichenization were present in the substrates. A phylogenetic analysis of the sequences showed that Nostoc phylotypes dominated the cyanobacterial communities of the substrates in all sites. Among them, an overlap was observed between the phylotypes of the lichen cyanobionts and those of the cyanobacteria present in their substrates, suggesting that they could be a possible source of lichen photobionts. Also, in most cases, higher Nostoc diversity was observed in the lichens than in the substrates from each site. A better understanding of cyanobacterial diversity in lichen substrates and their relatives in the lichens would bring insights into mycobiont selection and the distribution patterns of lichens, providing a background for hypothesis testing and theory development for future studies of the lichenization process.

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We want to thank J.L. Parraguez, M. Chacón, V. Bauk, A. Kromer, M. Presa, D. Lozano, A. Pradilla, F. Farías, and others from INACH-ECAs 48-49 and BAE Gabriel de Castilla for their fieldwork assistance. In addition, we wish to thank the editor’s and reviewers’ comments for significantly improving previous versions of this work and M. Handford for language support. Finally, we acknowledge the logistical support of the Wildlife Conservation Society Chile (WCS-Chile), Universidad de Magallanes (venue Puerto Williams), Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF), and Instituto Antártico Chileno (INACH). The Antarctic campaign was funded by INACH F_02-10 and the experimental procedures by Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico (FONDECYT) 11100381.

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Zúñiga, C., Leiva, D., Carú, M. et al. Substrates of Peltigera Lichens as a Potential Source of Cyanobionts. Microb Ecol 74, 561–569 (2017).

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  • Cyanobacteria
  • Nostoc
  • Peltigera
  • Photobiont availability
  • Terricolous lichens