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Keywords:

  • Dioecy;
  • fungal root endophytes;
  • plant-fungus interactions;
  • secondary sexual dimorphism

Abstract

Male and female plants of dioecious species often differ in their resource demands and this has been linked to secondary sexual dimorphism, including sex-specific interactions with other organisms such as herbivores and pollinators. However, little is known about the interaction between dioecious plants and fungal root endophytes. Plants may be simultaneously colonised by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and dark septate (DS) fungi. While it is well established that AM mutualism involves reciprocal transfer of photosynthates and mineral nutrients between roots of host plants and these fungi, the role of DS fungi remains controversial. Here, we report the temporal and spatial variation in AM and DS fungi in female, male and non-reproductive Antennaria dioica plants in three natural populations in Finland during flowering and after seed production. Females had higher colonisation by AM fungi, but lower colonisation by DS fungi than male and non-reproductive plants. The higher AM colonisation was observed during flowering, and this difference varied among populations. Our results suggest that females and males of A. dioica interact with AM and DS fungi differently and that this relationship is dependent on soil fertility.