Geosmithia associated with bark beetles and woodborers in the western USA: taxonomic diversity and vector specificity.
Fungi in the genus Geosmithia (Ascomycota: Hypocreales) are frequent associates of bark beetles and woodborers that colonize hardwood and coniferous trees. One species, Geosmithia morbida, is an economically damaging invasive species. The authors surveyed the Geosmithia species of California and Colorado, USA, to (i) provide baseline data on taxonomy of Geosmithia and beetle vector specificity across the western USA; (ii) investigate the subcortical beetle fauna for alternative vectors of the invasive G. morbida; and (iii) interpret the community composition of this region within the emerging global biogeography of Geosmithia. Geosmithia was detected in 87% of 126 beetle samples obtained from 39 plant species. Twenty-nine species of Geosmithia were distinguished, of which 13 may be new species. Bark beetles from hardwoods, Cupressus, and Sequoia appear to be regular vectors, with Geosmithia present in all beetle gallery systems examined. Other subcortical insects appear to vector Geosmithia at lower frequencies. Overall, most Geosmithia have a distinct level of vector specificity (mostly high, sometimes low) enabling their separation to generalists and specialists. Plant pathogenic Geosmithia morbida was not found in association with any other beetle besides Pityophthorus juglandis. However, four additional Geosmithia species were found in P. juglandis galleries. When integrated with recent data from other continents, a global pattern of Geosmithia distribution across continents, latitudes, and vectors is emerging: of the 29 Geosmithia species found in the western USA, 12 have not been reported outside of the USA. The most frequently encountered species with the widest global distribution also had the broadest range of beetle vectors. Several Geosmithia spp. with very narrow vector ranges in Europe exhibited the similar degree of specialization in the USA. Such strong canalization in association could reflect an ancient origin of each individual association, or a recent origin and a subsequent diversification in North America.