Host conservatism or host specialization? Patterns of fungal diversification are influenced by host plant specificity in Ophiognomonia (Gnomoniaceae: Diaporthales)



In this study evolutionary host plant patterns at ranks from order to species were analysed using spatial evolutionary and ecological vicariance analysis (SEEVA), based on a multigene phylogeny of 45 ascomycete fungal species. The objective was to understand speciation events and host associations in Ophiognomonia (Gnomoniaceae). Species of this genus are perithecial fungi that occur as endophytes, pathogens, and latent saprobes on plants in the families of Betulaceae, Fagaceae, Juglandaceae, Lauraceae, Malvaceae, Platanaceae, Rosaceae, Salicaceae, and Sapindaceae. A second objective was to determine whether speciation events are influenced by host conservatism, host specialization, or host switching at different taxonomic host ranks. Host differences between sister clades were interpreted using the divergence index (D) from the SEEVA analysis, ranging from 0 for no divergence to 1 for maximum possible divergence. Several fungal subclades showed clear patterns of host order/family conservatism (D= 1.00) for hosts in Betulaceae, Fagaceae, Juglandaceae, and Rosaceae. Clear trends of host specialization at host genus and species ranks (D = 1.00) were suggested within these host families. Independent host jumps were observed for two species at the family rank and three at the order rank. As a result of this study, host specificity and specialization is hypothesized as a mechanism that can strongly contribute to speciation patterns in fungal pathogens. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 111, 1–16.