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Photobiont selectivity for lichens and evidence for a possible glacial refugium in the Ross Sea Region, Antarctica

Abstract

Lichens are a symbiosis consisting of heterotrophic, fungal (mycobiont) and photosynthetic algal or cyanobacterial (photobiont) components. We examined photobiont sequences from lichens in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica using the internal transcribed spacer region of ribosomal DNA and tested the hypothesis that lichens from this extreme environment would demonstrate low selectivity in their choice of photobionts. Sequence data from three targeted lichen species (Buellia frigida, Umbilicaria aprina and Umbilicaria decussata) showed that all three were associated with a common algal haplotype (an unnamed Trebouxia species) which was present in all taxa and at all sites, suggesting lower selectivity. However, there was also association with unique, local photobionts as well as evidence for species-specific selection. For example, the cosmopolitan U. decussata was associated with two photobiont species, Trebouxia jamesii and an unnamed species. The most commonly collected lichen (B. frigida) had its highest photobiont haplotype diversity in the Dry Valley region, which may have served as a refugium during glacial periods. We conclude that even in these extreme environments, photobiont selectivity still has an influence on the successful colonisation of lichens. However, the level of selectivity is variable among species and may be related to the ability of some (e.g. B. frigida) to colonise a wider range of habitats.

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Acknowledgments

We are extremely grateful for the valuable and constructive comments provided by three anonymous reviewers. We also thank C. Gemmill for advice on PAUP* and phylogenetic analyses, and R. Cursons and O. Patty for helpful advice in the laboratory. Antarctica New Zealand provided logistic support and Helicopters New Zealand, FRST grant UOWX0505 and the University of Waikato provided financial support. C. Beard, L. Sancho, J. Banks, S. Fitzsimmons, R. Seppelt, R. Türk and Thorsten Lumbsch, Beata Guzow-Krzeminska provided valuable help in the field and laboratory, respectively. Lichen samples were transported into New Zealand under MAF permit number 2007032514.

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Correspondence to T. C. Jones.

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Jones, T.C., Hogg, I.D., Wilkins, R.J. et al. Photobiont selectivity for lichens and evidence for a possible glacial refugium in the Ross Sea Region, Antarctica. Polar Biol 36, 767–774 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-013-1295-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-013-1295-7

Keywords

  • Algae
  • Lichens
  • Mycobiont
  • Photobiont
  • Ross Dependency
  • Selectivity
  • Symbiosis