Diversity and ecology of ophiostomatoid fungi and arthropods associated with proteaceae infructescences

Roets, Francois (2002-12)

Thesis (MSc)--University of Stellenbosch, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Five new species of ophiostomatoid fungi, colon ising the infructescences of serotinous Protea species, have recently been discovered in South Africa. Prior to this, ophostomatoid fungi were thought to be restricted to the Northern Hemisphere. The discovery of these five species thus extensively expanded the known geographical range of these fungi, now also to include the Southern Hemisphere. Since this discovery, few studies have focused on the interesting ecology of this group, which is uniquely adapted for spore dispersal by arthropods. Studies focussed on ophiostomatoid fungi provide an unique opportunity to study inter-organism interactions between fungi, their host plants and the arthropods responsible for their spore dispersal. Very few similar studies have been undertaken, particularly in the Fynbos Biome, to which most of our economically important Protea species are confined. The current study provides insight into some ecological aspects of these complex interactions. The seasonal distribution of the ophiostomatoid fungi associated with the infructescences of members of the Proteaceae was investigated. Definite seasonal patterns were observed, with peak fungal colonisation occurring during the wetter winter months. While determining the host specificity of these fungi, a new Protea host for Ophiostoma splendens was identified, and a new species of Rhyncomeliola was discovered. All ophiostomatoid species native to Fynbos in the Stellenbosch region are exclusively associated with the infructescences of species in the plant genus Protea. By employing a multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), a set of group specific primers was developed for the identification of South African Ophiostoma and Gondwanamyces fungal DNA. This newly developed method was used to scan arthropods collected from the infructescences of P. repens for the presence of 0. splendens and G. proteae spores. By using these group-specific primers, three insects possibly responsible for long range dispersal of fungal spores were identified. Three further insect species, possibly contributing to the short-range dispersal of ophiostomatoid spores, were also implicated through this method. All arthropods associated with the fruiting structures of selected members of the Proteaceae were also investigated. A total of 62 pseudospecies (ca. 7500 individuals), belonging to 45 different arthropod families, were collected. Proteaceae species with larger fruiting structures housed more arthropod species and higher numbers of individuals than Proteaceae taxa with smaller fruiting structures. Some plant species housed similar arthropod communities, while others housed unique suites of arthropods. Seasonal patterns in arthropod numbers were observed, and it was found that, in most instances, arthropod numbers peaked during the autumn and winter months. Twenty-five fungal taxa were isolated from various Proteaceae arthropods, many of which are genera known to include Proteaceae pathogenic species. Ophiostomatoid fungi have a saprophytic relationship with their Protea hosts, and may deter some of these potentially harmful fungi from colon ising the infrutescences. Some fungi showed a high degree of specificity towards potential vectors, while others were found on a diverse range of arthropods. This study highlights the existence of complex inter-organismal interactions within the Fynbos Biome, a study area where the interactions between plants, fungi and insects have been grossly neglected. The few studies that have been conducted in this field have mostly focussed on a limited number of organisms, and no wide-scale attempts, such as presented here, have been published. It is important to obtain a holistic view in any ecological study that focuses on interactions between different suites of organisms. Ultimately this will aid in the development of better conservation strategies. This study thus provides a muchneeded start in studies on multi-organismal interactions in the Fynbos Biome.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Vyf nuwe ophiostoma-agtige fungus spesies is onlangs in die vrug-liggame van Suid Afrikaanse Protea plante ontdek. Voor hierdie ontdekking, was die algemene opvatting dat ophiostoma-agtige fungi beperk is tot die Noordelike Halfrond. Die ontdekking van hierdie vyf spesies het dus die bekende geografiese verspreiding van hierdie tipe fungi vergroot om nou ook die Suidelike Halfrond in te sluit. Sederdien het min studies gefokus op die interesante ekologie van hierdie groep, wat aangepas is vir spoorverspreiding deur geleedpotiges. Studies wat fokus op die ophiostoma-agtige fungi voorsien 'n unieke geleentheid om die inter-organismiese-interaksies tussen fungi, hul gasheer plante en die geleedpotiges wat hul spore versprei, te bestudeer. Baie min soortgelyke studies is al voorheen in die Fynbos Bioom, waar die meeste van ons ekonomies-belangrike Protea spesies voorkom, onderneem. Die huidige studie verleen meer inligting oor sommige ekologiese aspekte van hierdie komplekse interaksies. Seisoenale verspreidingspatrone van ophiostoma-agtige fungi geassosieer met die vrug-liggame van lede van die Proteaceae, is ondersoek. Daar is defnitiewe seisoenale patrone in die aanwesigheid van fungi gevind, met 'n piek in fungi kolonisasie-getalle gedurende die vogtiger wintermaande. 'n Nuwe Protea gasheer vir Ophiostoma splendens en 'n nuwe fungus spesie (Rhyncomeliola sp.), is ontdek. Alle Fynbos ophiostoma-agtige spesies in die Stellenbosch area, is beperk tot Protea spesies. 'n Multipleks Polimerase Ketting Reaksie is ontwikkel om die spesifieke DNS van ophiostoma-agtige fungi te herken. Hierdie metode is gebruik om te toets vir die aanwesigheid van spore van hierdie fungi op die liggame van geleedpotiges (geassosieerd met P. repens). Hierdeur is drie insekte wat waarskynlik verantwoordelik is vir die langafstand verspreiding van spore geidentifiseer. Drie verdere insekte wat moontlik verantwoordelik is vir die kortafstand verspreiding van ophiostoma-agtige fungi is ook aangewys. Alle geleedpotiges geassosieer met die vrugstrukture van geselekteerde lede van die Proteaceae is ondersoek. 'n Totaal van 62 pseudo-spesies (omtrent 7500 individue), wat tot 45 families behoort, is versamel. Proteaceae spesies met groter vrugstrukture het meer geleedpotige spesies en individue gehuisves as taksa met kleiner vrugstrukture. Sommige plant spesies het soortgelyke geleedpotige gemeenskappe gehuisves, terwyl unieke groepe geleedpotiges in ander plante voorgekom het. Alhoewel die geleedpotiges seisonale variasies in getalle geopenbaar het, het die meeste groepe 'n piek in getalle getoon gedurende die herfs- en wintermaande. Vyf-en-twintig fungi taksa is geïsoleer vanaf verskeie Proteaceae geleedpotiges. Sommige van hierdie is genera wat Proteaceae patogeniese spesies insluit. Sommige fungi het 'n hoë graad van spesifisiteit teenoor potensiële vektore getoon, terwyl ander weer algemeen op verskeie geleedpotige spesies gevind is. Hierdie studie dui op die bestaan van komplekse inter-organismiese-interaksies in die Fynbos Bioom, in 'n area waar die studie van interaksies tussen plante, fungi en insekte nog baie min aandag geniet het. Die beperkte aantal studies wat tot dusver in hierdie veld onderneem is, fokus gewoonlik slegs op 'n paar organismes. Geen grootskaalse studies, soos die een hier voorgelê, is al gepubliseer nie. In enige ekologiese studie wat fokus op interaksies tussen verskeie organismes, is dit belangrik om 'n holistiese siening te probeer verkry. Uiteindelik sal dit bydra tot die ontwikkeling van beter bewarings-strategië. Hierdie studie verleen dus 'n noodsaaklike begin tot studies op multiorganismiese- interaksies.

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