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Friends with benefits
Date:7/18/2012

stuck where they are."

In addition to many species which are housed in the Farlow Herbarium, located at the Harvard University Herbaria, Wolfe spent months tracking rare species in far-flung locations like London and Hawaii.

After extracting DNA from the samples, Wolfe used the genetic codes of four different genes to determine how the various species are related to one another. He then used a process called ancestral state reconstruction to show that the mushrooms have switched from being decomposers to being symbiotic with trees only once in their evolutionary history. Once the mushrooms switched to this new symbiotic lifestyle, they didn't go back to their free-living past.

Ultimately, Pringle said, the paper highlights one reason she finds such symbiotic partnerships "intrinsically interesting" for all their apparent benefits, the cost can be high.

"I think the really interesting thing is this idea that once you become symbiotic, some of your machinery is lost," she said. "It seems like a dead end in some ways you have to make this change to enter this niche, but once you're there, you can't go back you've lost the capacity to be free-living."


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Contact: Peter Reuell
preuell@fas.harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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