The New phytologist

Fungal-algal association patterns in lichen symbiosis linked to macroclimate.

PMID 27918622


Both macroclimate and evolutionary events may influence symbiont association and diversity patterns. Here we assess how climatic factors and evolutionary events shape fungal-algal association patterns in the widely distributed lichen-forming fungal genus Protoparmelia. Multilocus phylogenies of fungal and algal partners were generated using 174 specimens. Coalescent-based species delimitation analysis suggested that 23 fungal hosts are associating with 20 algal species. Principal component analysis (PCA) was performed to infer how fungal-algal association patterns varied with climate. Fungi associated with one to three algal partners whereas algae accepted one to five fungal partners. Both fungi and algae were more specific, associating with fewer partners, in the warmer climates. Interaction with more than one partner was more frequent in cooler climates for both the partners. Cophylogenetic analyses suggest congruent fungal-algal phylogenies. Host switch was a more common event in warm climates, whereas failure of the photobiont to diverge with its fungal host was more frequent in cooler climates. We conclude that both environmental factors and evolutionary events drive fungal and algal evolution in Protoparmelia. The processes leading to phylogenetic congruence of fungi and algae are different in different macrohabitats in our study system. Hence, closely related species inhabiting diverse habitats may follow different evolutionary pathways.