Species delimitation in fungal endophyte diversity studies and its implications in ecological and biogeographic inferences

Authors

  • ROMINA GAZIS,

    1. Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, 2112 Plant Sciences Building, College Park, MD 20742, USA
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  • STEPHEN REHNER,

    1. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Systematic Mycology and Microbiology Laboratory, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Building 011A, Room 304, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA
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  • PRISCILA CHAVERRI

    1. Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, 2112 Plant Sciences Building, College Park, MD 20742, USA
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Romina Gazis, Fax: 301 314 9308; E-mail: rgazis@umd.edu

Abstract

The estimation of species diversity in fungal endophyte communities is based either on species counts or on the assignment of operational taxonomic units (OTUs). Consequently, the application of different species recognition criteria affects not only diversity estimates but also the ecological hypotheses that arise from those observations. The main objective of the study was to examine how the choice and number of genetic markers and species delimitation criteria influence biodiversity estimates. Here, we compare approaches to defining species boundaries in three dominant species complexes of tropical endophytes, specially Colletotrichum gloeosporioides agg., Pestalotiopsis microspora agg. and Trichoderma harzianum agg., from two Amazonian trees: Hevea brasiliensis and H. guianensis. Molecular tools were used to describe and compare the diversity of the different assemblages. Multilocus phylogenetic analyses [gpd, internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and tef1] and modern techniques for phylogenetic species delimitation were overlaid with ecological data to recognize putative species or OTUs. The results demonstrate that ITS alone generally underestimates the number of species predicted by other nuclear loci. These results question the use of ITS and arbitrary divergence thresholds for species delimitation.

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