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At the fungal farmer's market, only the best cyanobacteria are for sale
Date:8/21/2009

olecular phylogenetics, this find has important implications for ecosystem research because a large proportion of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria previously believed to occur in both lichenized and free-living forms now appear to be restricted to lichen symbioses.

Lcking et al. also found that a wide range of lichen fungi that are distantly related with each other but co-occur in the same habitats are associated with members of Rhizonema. This implies that the fungi "share" the cyanobacteria among them, as opposed to evolving in concert with the cyanobacteria, a process that would result in similar evolutionary patterns in the fungal and cyanobacterial components of the lichen.

The authors propose that photobionts are selected based on their compatibility with the mycobionts and their ability to contribute to the establishment and growth of the lichen. This results in an increase in the frequency of particular mycobiont-photobiont pairs, and likewise an increase in the frequency of particular photobionts, which then leads to an increase in the availability of these photobiont strains for other lichen associations. This process may be compared to crop domestication, where farmers develop improved crop varieties and share them with other farmers, leading to higher yields for the farmers and proliferation of the most widely-used varieties. Indeed, the North American lichenologist Trevor Goward has defined lichens as "fungi that discovered agriculture," and this study not only supports this view but adds a further dimension to it.


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Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert  

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