Extreme specificity in epiparasitic Monotropoideae (Ericaceae): widespread phylogenetic and geographical structure


Martin I. Bidartondo, 111 Koshland Hall/Bruns Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720–3102, USA. Fax: (510) 642 4995; E-mail:martinb@nature.berkeley.edu


The Monotropoideae (Ericaceae) are nonphotosynthetic plants that obtain fixed carbon from their fungal mycorrhizal associates. To infer the evolutionary history of this symbiosis we identified both the plant and fungal lineages involved using a molecular phylogenetic approach to screen 331 plants, representing 10 of the 12 described species. For five species no prior molecular data were available; for three species we confirmed prior studies which used limited samples; for five species all previous reports are in conflict with our results, which are supported by sequence analysis of multiple samples and are consistent with the phylogenetic patterns of host plants. The phylogenetic patterns observed indicate that: (i) each of the 13 plant phylogenetic lineages identified is specialized to a different genus or species group within five families of ectomycorrhizal Basidiomycetes; (ii) mycorrhizal specificity is correlated with phylogeny; (iii) in sympatry, there is no overlap in mature plant fungal symbionts even if the fungi and the plants are closely related; and (iv) there are geographical patterns to specificity.