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Fungal-algal interactions in Ramalina menziesii and its associated epiphytic lichen community

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2012

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles, Box 951606, Los Angeles, California 90095-1606, USA and Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland. Email:


Lichens are a fascinating example of a symbiotic mutualism. It is still uncertain which processes guide fungal-photobiont interactions, and whether they are random or of a more complex nature. Here, the fungal-algal interactions in Ramalina menziesii and co-occurring taxa are analyzed by using DNA sequences of the algal Internal Transcribed Spacer region (ITS), to investigate fungal-algal associations in juvenile R. menziesii and allied species. Algal species were identified by a combination of BLAST searches, median-joining network analysis, and Bayesian phylogenetics. Fungal-algal networks were analyzed for nestedness, both at the species and haplotype level (fungal species vs. algal haplotypes), and the networks were inspected for evidence of compartmentalization. Bayesian phylogenetic trees indicated that the widespread green alga Trebouxia decolorans associated with R. menziesii, as well as six other fungal species. Four additional fungal species interacted with four different species of Trebouxia. Only in one out of ten samples were algal haplotypes shared with the nearest neighbours of juvenile R. menziesii. Fungal-algal species interactions were compartmentalized, while at the level of algal haplotypes, nestedness was found. This pattern is similar to the compartmentalization found in other intimately interacting mutualists.

Research Article
Copyright © British Lichen Society 2012

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