Biogeographic and phylogenetic patterns in diversity of liverwort-associated endophytes.
Liverworts harbor diverse fungi, including endophytes, in their healthy tissues. To address whether patterns of endophyte diversity are correlated with host phylogeny or geography, we designed a broad geographic survey with controlled phylogenetic host sampling. We collected liverworts in North Carolina, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia, Germany, and New Zealand and identified endophytes using culture-based and molecular methods. Of the major lineages of filamentous ascomycetes recovered, 53-88% belonged to the Xylariales. Endophyte accumulation curves did not saturate, and singleton sequences were dominant in each region, suggesting that liverwort endophyte communities are diverse. There was no significant difference in species richness between regional endophyte communities; however, total richness estimators indicated that North Carolina and New Zealand have richer communities than do Germany and the Pacific Northwest. This pattern reflects lower per-host endophyte density and prevalence of a common, shared sequence group in Germany and the Pacific Northwest. Although species richness was relatively low in the Pacific Northwest, the greatest phylogenetic diversity of endophytes was recovered there. Tests for regional and host specificity revealed that endophyte floras of hosts within a geographic area are more similar to one another than to those of closely related hosts. Geographic distance, not host phylogeny, best explains differences among communities.
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