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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Interactions of biotic and abiotic environmental factors in an ectomycorrhizal symbiosis, and the potential for selection mosaics

Bridget J Piculell1, Jason D Hoeksema12* and John N Thompson1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1156 High Street, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA

2 Department of Biology, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Biology 2008, 6:23  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-6-23

Published: 28 May 2008



Geographic selection mosaics, in which species exert different evolutionary impacts on each other in different environments, may drive diversification in coevolving species. We studied the potential for geographic selection mosaics in plant-mycorrhizal interactions by testing whether the interaction between bishop pine (Pinus muricata D. Don) and one of its common ectomycorrhizal fungi (Rhizopogon occidentalis Zeller and Dodge) varies in outcome, when different combinations of plant and fungal genotypes are tested under a range of different abiotic and biotic conditions.


We used a 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 factorial experiment to test the main and interactive effects of plant lineage (two maternal seed families), fungal lineage (two spore collections), soil type (lab mix or field soil), and non-mycorrhizal microbes (with or without) on the performance of plants and fungi. Ecological outcomes, as assessed by plant and fungal performance, varied widely across experimental environments, including interactions between plant or fungal lineages and soil environmental factors.


These results show the potential for selection mosaics in plant-mycorrhizal interactions, and indicate that these interactions are likely to coevolve in different ways in different environments, even when initially the genotypes of the interacting species are the same across all environments. Hence, selection mosaics may be equally as effective as genetic differences among populations in driving divergent coevolution among populations of interacting species.