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Most plants engage in symbioses with mycorrhizal fungi in soils and net consequences for plants vary widely from mutualism to parasitism. However, we lack a synthetic understanding of the evolutionary and ecological forces driving such variation for this or any other nutritional symbiosis. We used meta-analysis across 646 combinations of plants and fungi to show that evolutionary history explains substantially more variation in plant responses to mycorrhizal fungi than the ecological factors included in this study, such as nutrient fertilization and additional microbes. Evolutionary history also has a different influence on outcomes of ectomycorrhizal versus arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses; the former are best explained by the multiple evolutionary origins of ectomycorrhizal lifestyle in plants, while the latter are best explained by recent diversification in plants; both are also explained by evolution of specificity between plants and fungi. These results provide the foundation for a synthetic framework to predict the outcomes of nutritional mutualisms.


Correction to: Communications Biology, published online 16 August 2018

In the original published version of the article, the description of the fixed-effect predictor Inoculum Complexity presented in the Methods was incorrect. The incorrect description given was: “single fungal genus, multiple fungal genera, or whole soil inoculum”. The correct description is: “single fungal species, multiple fungal species, or whole soil inoculum”. The error does not affect any of the results presented in the paper. The correction has been made to the HTML and PDF versions of the paper.

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