Decreasing relatedness among mycorrhizal fungi in a shared plant network increases fungal network size but not plant benefit

Anouk van 't Padje*, Malin Klein, Victor Caldas, Loreto Oyarte Galvez, Cathleen Broersma, Nicky Hoebe, Ian R. Sanders, Thomas Shimizu, E. Toby Kiers

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Theory suggests that relatives will cooperate more, and compete less, because of an increased benefit for shared genes. In symbiotic partnerships, hosts may benefit from interacting with highly related symbionts because there is less conflict among the symbionts. This has been difficult to test empirically. We used the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis to study the effects of fungal relatedness on host and fungal benefits, creating fungal networks varying in relatedness between two hosts, both in soil and in-vitro. To determine how fungal relatedness affected overall transfer of nutrients, we fluorescently tagged phosphorus and quantified resource distribution between two root systems. We found that colonization by less-related fungi was associated with increased fungal growth, lower transport of nutrients across the network, and lower plant benefit - likely an outcome of increased fungal competition. More generally, we demonstrate how symbiont relatedness can mediate benefits of symbioses.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)509-520
    Number of pages12
    JournalEcology Letters
    Issue number2
    Early online date31 Dec 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    The research was supported by European Research Council ERC 335542 (to E.T.K), Ammodo Foundation (to E.T.K) and HFSP grant RGP 0029 (to E.T.K and T.S.S.). We thank M. Whiteside for help in developing the quantum‐dot technique, and Lukasz Istel for help with culture cultivation the cultures. We thank four reviewers for their constructive feedback.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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