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Taxi drivers: the role of animals in transporting mycorrhizal fungi

  • Martina VašutováEmail author
  • Piotr Mleczko
  • Alvaro López-García
  • Irena Maček
  • Gergely Boros
  • Jan Ševčík
  • Saori Fujii
  • Davorka Hackenberger
  • Ivan H. Tuf
  • Elisabeth Hornung
  • Barna Páll-Gergely
  • Rasmus Kjøller


Dispersal of mycorrhizal fungi via animals and the importance for the interacting partners’ life history as well as for ecosystems is an understudied topic. In this review, we describe the available evidence and the most important knowledge gaps and finally suggest ways to gain the missing information. So far, 33 articles have been published proving a successful transfer of mycorrhizal propagules by animals. The vast majority of research on invertebrates was focused on arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, whereas papers on vertebrates (mainly rodents and artiodactyls) equally addressed ectomycorrhizal (ECM) and AM fungi. Effective dispersal has been mostly shown by the successful inoculation of bait plants and less commonly by spore staining or germination tests. Based on the available data and general knowledge on animal lifestyles, collembolans and oribatid mites may be important in transporting ECM fungal propagules by ectozoochory, whereas earthworms, isopods, and millipedes could mainly transfer AM fungal spores in their gut systems. ECM fungal distribution may be affected by mycophagous dipterans and their hymenopteran parasitoids, while slugs, snails, and beetles could transport both mycorrhizal groups. Vertebrates feeding on fruit bodies were shown to disperse mainly ECM fungi, while AM fungi are transported mostly accidentally by herbivores. The important knowledge gaps include insufficient information on dispersal of fungal propagules other than spores, the role of invertebrates in the dispersal of mycorrhizal fungi, the way in which propagules pass through food webs, and the spatial distances reached by different dispersal mechanisms both horizontally and vertically.


Arbuscular mycorrhiza Ectomycorrhiza Zoochory Dispersal Fungal traits Biodiversity 



First of all, we acknowledge the COST Action FP1305 Biolink (and its chair Martin Lukac, co-chair Johannes Rousk and Sietse van der Linde) because the idea to review this topic stemmed from our meetings in this network. Consultation from the members of the Laboratory of Social and Myrmecophilous Insects, Museum and Institute of Zoology, PAS (Warsaw, Poland) is highly acknowledged. We thank Keith Edwards for improving the English language of the manuscript. M.F. Allen and two anonymous reviewers gave valuable comments on the manuscript.

Funding information

M.V. was partly supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of CR within the National Sustainability Program I (NPU I) (Grant No. LO1415) and partly by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (Grant No. 31-19-15031S); P.M. was supported by the Institute of Botany, Jagiellonian University (K/ZDS/007340, K/ZDS/007344); A.L.G. was partly supported by a European Union’s Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (Grant No. 708530 – DISPMIC) and partly by the Spanish government under the Plan Nacional de I+D+I (project CGL2015-69118-C2-2-P - COEXMED-II); I.M. was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency project J4-7052 and research core funding P4-008; I.H.T. was partly supported by a grant from the Czech Ministry of Agriculture (No. QJ1630422). R.K. was partly supported by the ‘Center for Bioenergy Recycling – ASHBACK’ funded by the Danish Council for Strategic Research (Grant No. 0606-00587B).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martina Vašutová
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Piotr Mleczko
    • 3
  • Alvaro López-García
    • 4
    • 5
  • Irena Maček
    • 6
    • 7
  • Gergely Boros
    • 8
  • Jan Ševčík
    • 9
  • Saori Fujii
    • 10
  • Davorka Hackenberger
    • 11
  • Ivan H. Tuf
    • 12
  • Elisabeth Hornung
    • 13
  • Barna Páll-Gergely
    • 14
  • Rasmus Kjøller
    • 4
  1. 1.Global Change Research InstituteCzech Academy of SciencesČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Botany, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  3. 3.Institute of Botany, Faculty of BiologyJagiellonian University in KrakówKrakówPoland
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  5. 5.Department of Soil Microbiology and Symbiotic SystemsEstación Experimental del Zaidín CSICGranadaSpain
  6. 6.Biotechnical FacultyUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  7. 7.Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies (FAMNIT)University of PrimorskaKoperSlovenia
  8. 8.Department of Zoology and Animal EcologySzent István UniversityGödöllöHungary
  9. 9.Department of Biology and Ecology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of OstravaOstravaCzech Republic
  10. 10.Insect Ecology Laboratory, Department of Forest EntomologyForestry and Forest Products Research InstituteTsukubaJapan
  11. 11.Department of BiologyUniversity of OsijekOsijekCroatia
  12. 12.Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of SciencePalacký University OlomoucOlomoucCzech Republic
  13. 13.Department of Ecology, Institute for BiologyUniversity of Veterinary Medicine BudapestBudapestHungary
  14. 14.Centre for Agricultural ResearchHungarian Academy of SciencesBudapestHungary

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