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Commun Biol. 2018 Aug 16;1:116. doi: 10.1038/s42003-018-0120-9. eCollection 2018.

Evolutionary history of plant hosts and fungal symbionts predicts the strength of mycorrhizal mutualism.

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1Department of Biology, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677 USA.
2Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045 USA.
3Department of Statistics, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65201 USA.
4Department of Environmental Science and Studies, DePaul University, Chicago, IL 60614 USA.
5Laboratoire Évolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR5174 UPS - CNRS - IRD - ENSFEA, Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France.
6Department of Biological Sciences and Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011 USA.
7Department of Biology, University of British Columbia-Okanagan, Kelowna, BC V1V 1V7 Canada.
8Departments of Biology and Mathematics, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405 USA.
9Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok, 10140 Thailand.
10Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620 USA.
11Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, 344 Leon Johnson Hall, Bozeman, MT 59717 USA.
12Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon, 335 Pacific Hall, Eugene, OR 97403 USA.
13Department of Biology, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003 USA.
14Department of Biology, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC 29424 USA.
15Departments of Botany and Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706 USA.
16Department of Biological Sciences, Wright State University, Dayton, OH 45435 USA.
17Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599 USA.
18Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands.
19Natural Resource Ecology & Management, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078 USA.


Most plants engage in symbioses with mycorrhizal fungi in soils and net consequences for plants vary widely from mutualism to parasitism. However, we lack a synthetic understanding of the evolutionary and ecological forces driving such variation for this or any other nutritional symbiosis. We used meta-analysis across 646 combinations of plants and fungi to show that evolutionary history explains substantially more variation in plant responses to mycorrhizal fungi than the ecological factors included in this study, such as nutrient fertilization and additional microbes. Evolutionary history also has a different influence on outcomes of ectomycorrhizal versus arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses; the former are best explained by the multiple evolutionary origins of ectomycorrhizal lifestyle in plants, while the latter are best explained by recent diversification in plants; both are also explained by evolution of specificity between plants and fungi. These results provide the foundation for a synthetic framework to predict the outcomes of nutritional mutualisms.

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