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There is a notion that host-generalist pathogens affect many different species, but are not as deadly, while host-specialist pathogens affect fewer seed species and have more severe effects. However, relatively little is known about whether most soil fungi are host-specialists, host-generalists, or the magnitude of impact they have on seed germination. I explored the concept of a niche breadth in fungi cultured from seeds buried for a year in patches of forest in Northeastern Kansas. To assess the degree to which each fungus was pathogenic, and whether temperature altered pathogenicity, I quantified germination of nine different seed species at two temperatures, 20°C, and 25°. The nine different seed species included species from which the fungus was cultured, as well as other species found in the landscape. Overall, I found that most fungal-seed relationships were commensil (i.e. fungi had no negative or positive effects on seed germination); however, some commensalistic seed-fungi interactions can become pathogenic with higher temperatures. This suggests that increasing the temperature can change how fungi are characterized. Interestingly, I also discovered that the fungi cultured from several species of seeds (host-generalist) was pathogenic toward several—but not all—species, but the fungi detected and cultured from a single plant species (host-specialist) was not pathogenic on its host. I also discovered that disease-severity across species that a fungi acts as a pathogen in. Overall, my study suggests that an increase in temperature can result in commensalistic interactions change to pathogenic interactions depending on the species of seed in fungi.
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Thomas, Isabella, "Case study: the interrelatedness of host-breadth and disease-severity in fungal pathogens at two temperatures" (2021). Senior Projects Fall 2021. 4.
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