Fidelity among Sirex woodwasps and their fungal symbionts.
We report that associations between mutualistic fungi and their economically and ecologically important woodwasp hosts are not always specific as was previously assumed. Woodwasps in the genus Sirex engage in obligate nutritional ectosymbioses with two species of Amylostereum, a homobasidomycete genus of white rot fungi. In the present study, the Amylostereum species and genotypes associated with three species of Sirex native to eastern North America and one relatively recent invasive Sirex from Europe were investigated by comparing intergenic spacer regions (IGS). Sirex spp. were sampled over 6 years from 23 sites in six US states, ranging from Maine in the northeast to Louisiana in the southeast, to obtain samples of Amylostereum from mycangia of adult females. Two of the native Sirex species (Sirex nigricornis and Sirex nitidus) were associated with either Amylostereum chailletii or Amylostereum areolatum, refuting the hypothesis of strict species-specific relationships. However, the invasive Sirex noctilio and the native Sirex cyaneus were each collected with only A. areolatum or A. chailletii, respectively, although S. noctilio was associated with two different IGS genotypes of A. areolatum and S. cyaneus occurs sympatrically with the other native Sirex. In Pinus, the preferred host tree of S. nigricornis and S. noctilio, these species co-occurred in 25.9% of trees sampled, and horizontal transmission of fungal strains from S. noctilio to S. nigricornis was documented, although only in one tree. The extent that further spread and establishment of S. noctilio will alter the composition of symbionts carried by native Sirex is unknown but will depend in part on the degree of flexibility in these host-symbiont associations.