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The indigenous coastal Californian population of the mushroom Agaricus bisporus, a cultivated species, may be at risk of extinction


R. W. Kerrigan E-mail.


This study employed nuclear and mitochondrial markers to assess the present-day composition of the population of Agaricus bisporus in coastal California. Favourable weather in the fall, winter and spring of 1990–91 furnished an uncommon opportunity to collect and study field material of the ‘button mushroom’A. bisporus, a cultivated species, from the region. The previous such season occurred 13 years earlier. Ninety-five nonredundant cultures from field material were prepared and genotypically characterized. These data were combined with data from earlier studies. Multilocus nuclear and mitochondrial genotypes were determined for 123 individuals. Genotypes were compared in pairwise fashion both within the sample and between this sample and others of diverse geographical origin or commercial provenance. Using parametric analysis and cluster analysis of nuclear similarities, and also mitochondrial data, two elements – indigenous and European – were apparent within the sample. This was consistent with our earlier results on a much smaller sample. At least 10 mitochondrial haplotypes (MTs) were present; based on genotypic similarities of associated nuclei, five (or six) MTs were Californian, four were European, and one was ambiguous. Based on MT origins, 54% of the 121 classifiable individuals in California were of European ancestry; natives constituted a minority at 46%. Even in the indigenous Monterey cypress habitat, where 84% of all individuals from California were sampled, non-native A. bisporus appeared to have achieved parity (at 48–49%) with the native population. In all other habitats, which are far more extensive, European individuals outnumbered Californian natives by 4:1. Some evidence of hybridization between the two ancestral groups was found. European strains appear to have been resident in California for approximately one century. The extensive occupancy of the native habitat by non-native germ plasm, the apparent inability of native strains to occupy or compete in non-native habitats, and the disproportionately large inoculum reservoirs represented by non-native habitat and agronomic activities all suggest that the native population is under considerable competitive pressure in what may be a very dynamic situation. If this surmise is correct, the native population may be at serious risk of further contraction, irreversible dilution through interbreeding, and possibly even extinction.