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Colonization of Seeds by Soilborne Fungi: Linking Seed Dormancy-Defense Syndromes, Evolutionary Constraints, and Fungal Traits

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Seed Endophytes

Abstract

The diverse soilborne fungi that recruit to seeds after dispersal include some of the most important agents of seed mortality, as well as strains that enhance germination or inhabit seeds without detriment. Ecological factors that influence seed colonization are not well understood yet are fundamental to the interactions between soilborne fungi and seeds that ultimately influence plant demography and community structure. Here we present current perspectives on seed defense syndromes and related frameworks for predicting colonization success of fungi, with a focus on seeds of tropical pioneer trees. We present a case study that tests whether fungal host range can be predicted by field observations of host use, seed defense syndromes, or phylogenetic relatedness of fungi or hosts. We show that phylogenetic relatedness of hosts, but not fungi, is a strong predictor of fungal colonization of seeds. We posit that the impacts of individual fungi and microbial consortia on seed viability and germination may in turn reflect fungal interactions with the suites of plant defenses codified recently under the broad framework of seed dormancy-defense syndromes. Our findings set the stage for experiments that track colonization, germination, and seedling establishment in the field, important for understanding impacts of fungi on the recruitment of tropical trees.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Margaret Wilch, Kayla Garcia, Daniel Roche, Abby Robison, and the support staff on BCI for assistance, guidance, and logistical support during the experiment. We thank Peter Chesson, M. Natalia Umaña, and Meghan Krishnadas for helpful discussion and advice on statistics. This work was funded by NSF DEB-1119758 to AEA and NSF DEB-1120205 to JWD and ASD. PCZ was supported in part by a grant from the Simons Foundation to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (429440, WTW). SMS was supported by NSF DGE-0841234 and the University of Arizona and gratefully acknowledges the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Institute for the Environment for funding support. We thank the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Republic of Panama for the opportunity to conduct research there.

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Correspondence to Simon Maccracken Stump .

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Stump, S.M. et al. (2019). Colonization of Seeds by Soilborne Fungi: Linking Seed Dormancy-Defense Syndromes, Evolutionary Constraints, and Fungal Traits. In: Verma, S., White, Jr, J. (eds) Seed Endophytes. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-10504-4_22

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