Spatial community structure of mountain pine beetle fungal symbionts across a latitudinal gradient

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  • Symbiont redundancy in obligate insect–fungal systems is thought to buffer the insect host against symbiont loss and to extend the environmental conditions under which the insect can persist. The mountain pine beetle is associated with at least three well-known and putatively obligate ophiostomatoid fungal symbionts that vary in their environmental tolerances. To better understand the spatial variation in beetle–fungal symbiotic associations, we examined the community composition of ophiostomatoid fungi associated with the mountain pine beetle as a function of latitude and elevation. The region investigated represents the leading edge of a recent outbreak of mountain pine beetle in western Canada. Using regression and principal components analysis, we identified significant spatial patterns in fungal species abundances that indicate symmetrical replacement between two of the three fungi along a latitudinal gradient and little variation in response to elevation. We also identified significant variation in the prevalence of pair-wise species combinations that occur within beetle galleries. Frequencies of pair-wise combinations were significantly different from what was expected given overall species abundances. These results suggest that complex processes of competitive exclusion and coexistence help determine fungal community composition and that the consequences of these processes vary spatially. The presence of three fungal symbionts in different proportions and combinations across a wide range of environmental conditions may help explain the success of mountain pine beetle attacks across a broad geographic range.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
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    • Roe, A.D*, James, P.M.A.*, Cooke, J., Sperling, F.A.H. (2011). Spatial community structure of mountain pine beetle fungal symbionts across a latitudinal gradient. Microbial Ecology, 62(2), 347-360.
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