Multiple Mutualism Effects generate synergistic selection and strengthen fitness alignment in the interaction between legumes, rhizobia and mycorrhizal fungi

Michelle E. Afkhami, Maren L. Friesen, John R. Stinchcombe

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Nearly all organisms participate in multiple mutualisms, and complementarity within these complex interactions can result in synergistic fitness effects. However, it remains largely untested how multiple mutualisms impact eco-evolutionary dynamics in interacting species. We tested how multiple microbial mutualists—N-fixing bacteria and mycorrrhizal fungi—affected selection and heritability of traits in their shared host plant (Medicago truncatula), as well as fitness alignment between partners. Our results demonstrate for the first time that multiple mutualisms synergistically affect the selection and heritability of host traits and enhance fitness alignment between mutualists. Specifically, we found interaction with multiple microbial symbionts doubled the strength of natural selection on a plant architectural trait, resulted in 2- to 3-fold higher heritability of plant reproductive success, and more than doubled fitness alignment between N-fixing bacteria and plants. These findings show synergism generated by multiple mutualisms extends to key components of microevolutionary change, emphasising the importance of multiple mutualism effects on evolutionary trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1824-1834
Number of pages11
JournalEcology Letters
Volume24
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • fitness
  • fitness alignment
  • genotypic selection analysis
  • Medicago
  • multiple mutualism effects
  • multispecies interactions
  • mycorrhizal fungi
  • nitrogen-fixing bacteria
  • non-additive
  • symbiosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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