Symbiont switching and alternative resource acquisition strategies drive mutualism breakdown

Gijsbert D.A. Werner*, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen, William K. Cornwell, Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia, Jens Kattge, Stuart A. West, E. Toby Kiers

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    Abstract

    Cooperative interactions among species, termed mutualisms, have played a crucial role in the evolution of life on Earth. However, despite key potential benefits to partners, there are many cases in which two species cease to cooperate and mutualisms break down. What factors drive the evolutionary breakdown of mutualism? We examined the pathways toward breakdowns of the mutualism between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. By using a comparative approach, we identify ∼25 independent cases of complete mutualism breakdown across global seed plants. We found that breakdown of cooperation was only stable when host plants (i) partner with other root symbionts or (ii) evolve alternative resource acquisition strategies. Our results suggest that key mutualistic services are only permanently lost if hosts evolve alternative symbioses or adaptations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5229-5234
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Volume115
    Issue number20
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2018

    Funding

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank SURFsara (www.surf-sara.nl) for support in using the Lisa Computing Cluster. The study was supported by the TRY initiative on plant traits (www.try-db.org), a Royal Society Newton International Fellowship (to G.D.A.W.), a Junior Research Fellowship at Balliol College Oxford (to G.D.A.W.), Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research Grants 836.10.001 and 864.10.005 (to E.T.K.) and Grant 016.161.318 (to N.A.S.), and European Research Council ERC Grant Agreement 335542 (to E.T.K.). We thank SURFsara (www.surf-sara.nl) for support in using the Lisa Computing Cluster. The study was supported by the TRY initiative on plant traits (www.try-db.org), a Royal Society Newton International Fellowship (to G.D.A.W.), a Junior Research Fellowship at Balliol College Oxford (to G.D.A.W.), Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research Grants 836.10.001 and 864.10.005 (to E.T.K.) and Grant 016.161.318 (to N.A.S.), and European Research Council ERC Grant Agreement 335542 (to E.T.K.).

    FundersFunder number
    N.A.S.
    Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research Grants
    Royal Society Newton International
    H2020 European Research Council
    Seventh Framework Programme335542
    Royal Society
    European Research Council
    Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek016.161.318, 836.10.001, 864.10.005
    Balliol College, University of Oxford

      Keywords

      • Cooperation
      • Macroevolution
      • Mutualism
      • Mycorrhizae
      • Symbiosis

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