Dissociation and horizontal transmission of codispersing lichen symbionts in the genus Lepraria (Lecanorales: Stereocaulaceae)

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• Lichenized fungi of the genus Lepraria lack ascomata and conidiomata, and symbionts codisperse by soredia. Here, it is determined whether algal symbionts associated with Lepraria are monophyletic, and whether fungal and algal phylogenies are congruent, both of which are indicative of a long-term, continuous association between symbionts. • The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and part of the actin type I locus were sequenced from algae associated with Lepraria, and the fungal ITS and mitochondrial small subunit (mtSSU) were sequenced from fungal symbionts. Phylogenetic analyses tested for monophyly of algal symbionts and congruence between algal and fungal phylogenies. • Algae associated with Lepraria were not monophyletic, and identical algae associated with different Lepraria individuals and species. Algal and fungal phylogenies were not congruent, suggesting a lack of strict codiversification. • This study suggests that associations between symbionts are not strictly maintained over evolutionary time. The ability to switch partners may provide benefits similar to genetic recombination, which may have helped this lineage persist. © The Authors (2007).

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New Phytologist