Analysis of network architecture reveals phylogenetic constraints on mycorrhizal specificity in the genus Orchis (Orchidaceae)


Author for correspondence:
Hans Jacquemyn
Tel: +32 16 32 15 30


  • The specificity of orchids for their fungi can vary substantially, from highly specialist interactions to more generalist interactions, but little is known about the evolutionary history of the mycorrhizal specificity of orchids.
  • Here, we used a network analysis approach to investigate orchid mycorrhizal associations in 16 species of the genus Orchis sampled across 11 different regions in Europe. We first examined in detail the structure of the network of associations and then tested for a phylogenetic signal in mycorrhizal specificity and identified the fungi with which the orchids associated.
  • We found 20 different fungal lineages that associated with species of the genus Orchis, most of them being related to members of the Tulasnellaceae (84.33% of all identified associations) and a smaller proportion being related to members of the Ceratobasidiaceae (9.97%). Species associations formed a nested network that is built on asymmetric links among species. Evolution of mycorrhizal specificity in Orchis closely resembles a Brownian motion process, and the interaction between Orchis and Tulasnellaceae fungi is significantly influenced by the phylogenetic relationships between the Orchis species.
  • Our results provide evidence of the presence of phylogenetic conservatism in mycorrhizal specificity in orchids and demonstrate that evolutionary processes may be an important factor in generating patterns of mycorrhizal associations.