Claviceps paspali, a common fungal pathogen of Paspalum grasses, attracts moth vectors by producing sugary exudates in the grass florets it infects. These exudates also support mycoparasitic Fusarium species that may negatively influence C. paspali fitness. We examined the potential for moths on which C. paspali depends to also transmit mycoparasitic Fusarium and fungal endophytes, which inhabit asymptomatic plant tissue and may influence host susceptibility to pathogens. We quantified infections by C. paspali, Fusarium spp., and endophytic fungi associated with Paspalum spp. at focal sites in the southeastern USA and used data from the nuclear internal transcribed spacer (ITS rDNA) to compare communities of plant-associated and moth-borne fungi. ITS sequences of moth-borne fungi were identical to reference sequences of mycoparasitic Fusarium heterosporum and to three distinct endophytic fungi isolated from Paspalum species. Our results demonstrate an unexpected overlap of fungal communities between disparate locations and among plant species and plant tissues, and suggest an unexpected role of moths, which vector a plant pathogen, to transmit other guilds of fungi. In turn, the potential for insects to transmit plant pathogens as well as mycoparasites and endophytic fungi suggests complex interactions underlying a commonly observed grass-pathogen system.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Soil Science