Ophiostoma quercus : an unusually diverse and globally widespread tree-infecting fungus

15 Jun 2018

Ophiostoma quercus (Ascomycota, Ophiostomatales) is a globally widespread, insect-vectored fungus that colonizes a wide diversity of hardwood and conifer hosts. Although the fungus is considered to be non-pathogenic, it is closely related to the fungi that cause Dutch elm disease. We examined the global diversity of O. quercus based on a ribosomal RNA marker and three unlinked gene regions. The fungus exhibited substantial morphological diversity. In addition, O. quercus had high genetic diversity in every continent from which it was collected, although the fungus was most diverse in Eurasia. There was no evidence of geographical clustering of haplotypes based on phylogenetic and network analyses. In addition, the phylogenetic trees generated based on the different markers were non-congruent. These results suggest that O. quercus has been repeatedly moved around the globe, because of trade in wood products, and that the fungal species most likely outcrosses regularly. The high genetic diversity of the fungus, as well as its ability to utilize a wide variety of arthropod vectors and colonize a tremendous diversity of tree host species makes O. quercus truly unique among ophiostomatoid fungi.