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Data from: Sympatry and interference of divergent Microbotryum pathogen species.


Hood, Michael E et al. (2019), Data from: Sympatry and interference of divergent Microbotryum pathogen species., Dryad, Dataset,


The impact of infectious diseases in natural ecosystems is strongly influenced by the degree of pathogen specialization and by the local assemblies of potential host species. This study investigated anther-smut disease, caused by fungi in the genus Microbotryum, among natural populations of plants in the Caryophyllaceae. A broad geographic survey focused on sites of the disease on multiple host species in sympatry. Analysis of molecular identities for the pathogens revealed that sympatric disease was most often due to co-occurrence of distinct, host-specific anther-smut fungi, rather than localized cross-species disease transmission. Flowers from sympatric populations showed that the Microbotryum spores were frequently moved between host species. Experimental inoculations to simulate cross-species exposure to the pathogens in these plant communities showed that the anther-smut pathogen was less able to cause disease on its regular host when following exposure of the plants to incompatible pathogens from another host species. These results indicate that multi-host / multi-pathogen communities are common in this system and they involve a previously hidden mechanism of interference between Microbotryum fungi, which likely affects both pathogen and host distributions.

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National Science Foundation, Award: DEB- 1115765, DEB-1115899, R15GM119092