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Stowaway Fungi Hitch a Ride with Birds to be with their Plant Partners

For the first time, scientists have shown that fungal hitchhikers use birds to colonize new territories with their plant partners. In a New Phytologist study, the researchers provide the first evidence that birds don’t just carry plants to new places, but their fungal partners too.

Thursday, January 24, 2019 12:01 am EST
"This is a fundamental piece of the puzzle to understand the global distribution of mycorrhizal fungi and the colonization of remote territories by plants and associated fungi"

For the first time, scientists have shown that fungal hitchhikers use birds to colonize new territories with their plant partners. In a New Phytologist study, the researchers provide the first evidence that birds don’t just carry plants to new places, but their fungal partners too.

For the study, the team collected numerous bird droppings. A total of 54 plant seedlings from six species emerged from 34 bird droppings. Some of the plants that germinated were already colonized by fungi—revealing that birds carry both plants and their fungal partners to new areas, often over long distances.

Many plants form close relationships with a type of fungi called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. These symbiotic relationships benefit both the plant and the fungus. Scientists have long thought that sharing the same transport mechanism would give plants that grow in symbiosis with fungi an advantage. This is the first time that the role of birds in dispersing both partners has been confirmed.

“This is a fundamental piece of the puzzle to understand the global distribution of mycorrhizal fungi and the colonization of remote territories by plants and associated fungi,” said lead author Dr. Marta Correia, of the University of Coimbra, in Portugal.

Additional Information

Link to Study: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nph.15571  

About Journal 

New Phytologist publishes excellent, novel, rigorous and timely research and scholarship in plant science and its applications. Falling within four sections – Physiology & Development, Environment, Interaction and Evolution – articles cover topics that range from intracellular processes through to global environmental change. We recognize that techniques from molecular and cell biology, and functional genomics through to modelling and system-based approaches will be applied across the whole spectrum of plant science.

About Wiley

Wiley is a global leader in research and education. Our online scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, and our digital learning, assessment, certification and student-lifecycle services and solutions help universities, academic societies, businesses, governments and individuals to achieve their academic and professional goals. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to our stakeholders. The Company's website can be accessed at www.wiley.com.

Multimedia Files:

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Details of the glasshouse experiment: identity of seed dispersers and plant species, number of droppings with seeds collected and sown (dark grey bars), number of droppings with viable seeds (light grey bars), and number of droppings containing viable seeds with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi (orange bars).
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Contact:

Josh Glickman +1 201-748-6572 (US)
Penny Smith +44 (0) 1243 770448 (UK)
newsroom@wiley.com

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