Structural changes to a mycothallus along a latitudinal transect through the maritime and sub-Antarctic
Previous studies have shown the leafy liverwort Cephaloziella varians to associate consistently with fungi, typically the ericoid mycorrhizal symbiont Rhizoscyphus ericae, across a wide latitudinal gradient in the maritime and sub-Antarctic. Hitherto, however, there are no quantitative data on the intensity of colonisation of C. varians by fungal structures in the natural environment and how colonisation might vary with changing environmental conditions. A study is hence reported showing that the frequency of colonisation by fungal structures of C. varians alters along a latitudinal transect from South Georgia (54A degrees S, 38A degrees W) to Moutonn,e Valley on Alexander Island (71A degrees S, 68A degrees W). The percentage of stem length colonised by dark septate (DS) hyphae increased significantly along the transect, from 30% at South Georgia to 97% at Moutonn,e Valley. In contrast, the percentage of stem length colonised by hyaline hyphae decreased significantly, from 85% at South Georgia to 13% at Moutonn,e Valley, and that colonised by hyphal coils similarly decreased from 71% at the former location to 15% at the latter. The frequencies of DS hyphae were negatively associated with mean annual and seasonal air temperatures, whereas those of hyaline septate hyphae and hyphal coils were positively associated with air temperatures. Coils at northerly locations were more convoluted than those at southerly locations. The data indicate that hyphal coils, usually associated with nutrient exchange between partners in ericoid mycorrhizas, do form in C. varians tissues in the maritime and sub-Antarctic, but that the frequency of these structures diminishes in colder habitats.