Ploidy-specific symbiotic interactions: divergence of mycorrhizal fungi between cytotypes of the Gymnadenia conopsea group (Orchidaceae)

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Summary

  • Polyploidy is widely recognized as a major mechanism of sympatric speciation in plants, yet little is known about its effects on interactions with other organisms. Mycorrhizal fungi are among the most common plant symbionts and play an important role in plant nutrient supply. It remains to be understood whether mycorrhizal associations of ploidy-variable plants can be ploidy-specific.
  • We examined mycorrhizal associations in three cytotypes (2x, 3x, 4x) of the Gymnadenia conopsea group (Orchidaceae), involving G. conopsea s.s. and G. densiflora, at different spatial scales and during different ontogenetic stages. We analysed: adults from mixed- and single-ploidy populations at a regional scale; closely spaced adults within a mixed-ploidy site; and mycorrhizal seedlings.
  • All Gymnadenia cytotypes associated mainly with saprotrophic Tulasnellaceae (Basidiomycota). Nonetheless, both adults and seedlings of diploids and their autotetraploid derivatives significantly differed in the identity of their mycorrhizal symbionts. Interploidy segregation of mycorrhizal symbionts was most pronounced within a site with closely spaced adults.
  • This study provides the first evidence that polyploidization of a plant species can be associated with a shift in mycorrhizal symbionts. This divergence may contribute to niche partitioning and facilitate establishment and co-existence of different cytotypes.

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