Strong specificity and network modularity at a very fine phylogenetic scale in the lichen genus Peltigera.
Identifying the drivers and evolutionary consequences of species interactions is a major goal of community ecology. Network-based analyses can provide mathematical tools to detect non-random patterns of interactions, and potentially help predicting the consequences of such patterns on evolutionary dynamics of symbiotic systems. Here, we characterize the structure of a lichen network at a very fine phylogenetic scale, by identifying the photosynthetic partners (i.e., cyanobacteria of the genus Nostoc) of lichenized fungi belonging to a monophyletic section of a single genus (i.e., section Polydactylon of the genus Peltigera), worldwide. Even at such a fine phylogenetic scale, we found that interactions were highly modular and anti-nested, indicating strong preferences in interactions. When considering local Peltigera communities, i.e., datasets at small spatial scales with only a slightly broader phylogenetic range, interactions remained modular but were asymmetric, with generalist Nostoc partners interacting with specialized Peltigera species. This asymmetry was not detected with our global spatial scale dataset. We discuss these results in the light of lichen community assembly, and explore how such interaction patterns may influence coevolution in lichens and the evolutionary stability of the mutualism in general.
Chagnon, PL; Magain, N; Miadlikowska, J; Lutzoni, F
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