Ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity and community structure on three co-occurring leguminous canopy tree species in a Neotropical rainforest


Author for correspondence:
Matthew E. Smith
Tel: +1 919 660 7369


  • The ectomycorrhizal (ECM) symbiosis was historically considered restricted to the temperate zones, but recent studies have shown the importance of this symbiosis across the tropics. We examined ECM fungal diversity, host plant phylogeny and ECM host preferences in a rainforest dominated by the leguminous host plants Dicymbe corymbosa, Dicymbe altsonii and Aldina insignis.
  • Ectomycorrhizal fungi were identified by internal transcribed spacer rDNA sequencing and host species were verified with chloroplast trnL sequencing. To test whether Dicymbe and Aldina represent independent gains of the ECM symbiosis, we constructed a Fabaceae phylogeny using MatK and trnL. We identified four independent ECM lineages within the Fabaceae.
  • We detected a diverse community of 118 ECM species dominated by the /clavulina, /russula-lactarius, /boletus, and /tomentella-thelephora lineages. Ectomycorrhizal species in Agaricales, Atheliales and Polyporales may represent previously unrecognized tropical-endemic ECM lineages. Previous studies suggested that ECM fungi did not diversify in the tropics, but the /clavulina lineage appears to have a center of diversity in tropical South America.
  • Dicymbe and Aldina represent independent gains of the ECM symbiosis in Fabaceae but their fungal symbionts showed no host preferences. Spatial factors are more important than hosts in structuring the ECM fungal community in this ecosystem.