Evolutionary maintenance of genomic diversity within arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi

Thomas W. Scott*, E. Toby Kiers, Guy A. Cooper, Miguel dos Santos, Stuart A. West

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Most organisms are built from a single genome. In striking contrast, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi appear to maintain genomic variation within an individual fungal network. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi dwell in the soil, form mutualistic networks with plants, and bear multiple, potentially genetically diverse nuclei within a network. We explore, from a theoretical perspective, why such genetic diversity might be maintained within individuals. We consider selection acting within and between individual fungal networks. We show that genetic diversity could provide a benefit at the level of the individual, by improving growth in variable environments, and that this can stabilize genetic diversity even in the presence of nuclear conflict. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi complicate our understanding of organismality, but our findings offer a way of understanding such biological anomalies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2425-2435
    Number of pages11
    JournalEcology and Evolution
    Issue number5
    Early online date11 Feb 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


    • arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
    • chimera
    • genetic conflict
    • individuality
    • intraorganismal genetic heterogeneity
    • levels of selection
    • modular organisms
    • mosaic
    • mycorrhizal networks
    • organismality


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