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Decreasing relatedness among mycorrhizal fungi in a shared plant network increases fungal network size but not plant benefit
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  • Anouk van 't Padje,
  • Victor Caldas,
  • Loreto Oyarte Galvez,
  • Cathleen Boersma,
  • Nicky Hoebe,
  • Ian Sanders,
  • Thomas Shimizu,
  • E. Toby Kiers
Anouk van 't Padje
Wageningen University & Research
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Victor Caldas
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
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Loreto Oyarte Galvez
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
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Cathleen Boersma
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
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Nicky Hoebe
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
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Ian Sanders
University of Lausanne
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Thomas Shimizu
AMOLF
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E. Toby Kiers
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
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Abstract

Relatives are expected to cooperate more and compete less. In symbiotic partnerships, hosts may benefit from interacting with highly-related symbionts because there is less conflict. This has been difficult to test empirically. We used the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis to study the effects of fungal relatedness on host and fungal benefits, creating fungal networks varying in relatedness (self vs. non-self) between two host plants, in both soil and in-vitro systems. To determine how fungal relatedness affected overall transfer of nutrients to host roots, we fluorescently tagged phosphorus and quantified resource distribution. We imaged fungal networks, and related fractal dimension to fungal growth strategies. We found that decreased relatedness was associated with increased fungal growth and complexity, lower transport of nutrients across the fungal network, and lower plant benefit, likely an outcome of increased fungal competition. More generally, we demonstrate how relatedness among symbionts can mediate the overall benefits of symbiotic partnerships.