Date Published:Jun 08
Symbiont fidelity is an important mechanism in the evolution and stability of mutualisms. Strict fidelity has been assumed for the obligate mutualism between Sirex woodwasps and their mutualistic Amylostereum fungi. This assumption has been challenged in North America where the European woodwasp, Sirex noctilio, and its fungal mutualist, Amylostereum areolatum, have recently been introduced. We investigate the specificity of the mutualism between Sirex and Amylostereum species in Canada, where S. noctilio co-infests Pinus with native Sirex nigricornis and its mutualist, Amylostereum chailletii. Using phylogenetic and culture methods, we show that extensive, reciprocal exchange of fungal species and strains is occurring, with 75.3 per cent of S. nigricornis carrying A. areolatum and 3.5 per cent of S. noctilio carrying A. chailletii. These findings show that the apparent specificity of the mutualism between Sirex spp. and their associated Amylostereum spp. is not the result of specific biological mechanisms that maintain symbiont fidelity. Rather, partner switching may be common when shifting geographical distributions driven by ecological or anthropogenic forces bring host and mutualist pairs into sympatry. Such novel associations have potentially profound consequences for fitness and virulence. Symbiont sharing, if it occurs commonly, may represent an important but overlooked mechanism of community change linked to biological invasions.