Ecology Letters | VOL. 24

A broadscale analysis of host‐symbiont cophylogeny reveals the drivers of phylogenetic congruence

Publication Date May 14, 2021


Symbioses exert substantial biological influence, with great evolutionary and ecological relevance for disease, major evolutionary transitions, and the structure and function of ecological communities. Yet, much remains unknown about the patterns and processes that characterise symbioses. A major unanswered question is the extent to which symbiont phylogenies mirror those of their hosts and if patterns differ for parasites and mutualists. Addressing this question offers fundamental insights into evolutionary processes, such as whether symbionts typically codiverge with their hosts or if diversity is generated via host switches. Here, we perform a meta-analysis of host-symbiont phylogenetic congruence, encompassing 212 host-symbiont cophylogenetic studies that include ~10,000 species. Our analysis supersedes previous qualitative assessments by utilising a quantitative framework. We show that symbiont phylogeny broadly reflects host phylogeny across biodiversity and life-history, demonstrating a general pattern of phylogenetic congruence in host-symbiont interactions. We reveal two key aspects of symbiont life-history that promote closer ties between hosts and symbionts: vertical transmission and mutualism. Mode of symbiosis and mode of transmission are intimately interlinked, but vertical transmission is the dominant factor. Given the pervasiveness of symbioses, these findings provide important insights into the processes responsible for generating and maintaining the Earth's rich biodiversity.


Mode Of Symbiosis Major Evolutionary Transitions Vertical Transmission Symbiont Phylogenies Phylogenetic Congruence Host-symbiont Interactions Rich Biodiversity Host Switches Dominant Factor Pattern Of Congruence

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