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  1. Abstract

    Understanding the origins and maintenance of host specificity, or why horizontally‐acquired symbionts associate with some hosts but not others, remains elusive. In this study, we explored whether patterns of host specificity in foliar fungal endophytes, a guild of highly diverse fungi that occur within the photosynthetic tissues of all major plant lineages, were related to characteristics of the plant community. We comprehensively sampled all plant host species within a single community and tested the relationship between plant abundance or plant evolutionary relatedness and metrics of endophyte host specificity. We quantified host specificity with methods that considered the total endophyte community per plant host (i.e., multivariate methods) along with species‐based methods (i.e., univariate metrics) that considered host specificity from the perspective of each endophyte. Univariate host specificity metrics quantified plant alpha‐diversity (structural specificity), plant beta‐diversity (beta‐specificity), and plant phylogenetic diversity (phylogenetic specificity) per endophyte. We standardized the effect sizes of univariate host specificity metrics to randomized distributions to avoid spurious correlations between host specificity metrics and endophyte abundance. We found that more abundant plant species harbored endophytes that occupied fewer plant species (higher structural specificity) and were consistently found in the same plant species across the landscape (higher beta‐specificity). There was no relationship between plant phylogenetic distance and endophyte community dissimilarity. We still found that endophyte community composition significantly varied among plant species, families, and major groups, supporting a plant identity effect. In particular, endophytes in angiosperm lineages associated with narrower phylogenetic breadths of plants (higher phylogenetic specificity) compared to endophytes within conifer and fern lineages. Overall, an effect of plant species abundance may help explain why horizontally‐transmitted endophytes vary geographically within host species ranges.

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  2. Abstract

    DNA metabarcoding is an emerging tool used to quantify diet in environments and consumer groups where traditional approaches are unviable, including small‐bodied invertebrate taxa. However, metabarcoding of small taxa often requires DNA extraction from full body parts (without dissection), and it is unclear whether surface contamination from body parts alters presumed diet presence or diversity.

    We examined four different measures of diet (presence, rarefied read abundance, richness, and species composition) for a terrestrial invertebrate consumer (the spiderHeteropoda venatoria) both collected in its natural environment and fed an offered diet item in contained feeding trials using DNA metabarcoding of full body parts (opisthosomas). We compared diet from consumer individuals surface sterilized to remove contaminants in 10% commercial bleach solution followed by deionized water with a set of unsterilized individuals.

    We found that surface sterilization did not significantly alter any measure of diet for consumers in either a natural environment or feeding trials. The best‐fitting model predicting diet detection in feeding trial consumers included surface sterilization, but this term was not statistically significant (β = −2.3,p‐value = .07).

    Our results suggest that surface contamination does not seem to be a significant concern in this DNA diet metabarcoding study for consumers in either a natural terrestrial environment or feeding trials. As the field of diet DNA metabarcoding continues to progress into new environmental contexts with various molecular approaches, we suggest ongoing context‐specific consideration of the possibility of surface contamination.

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  3. Summary

    Foliar fungal endophytes are one of the most diverse guilds of symbiotic fungi found in the photosynthetic tissues of every plant lineage, but it is unclear how plant environments and leaf resource availability shape their diversity.

    We explored correlations between leaf nutrient availability and endophyte diversity amongPinus muricataandVaccinium ovatumplants growing across a soil nutrient gradient spanning a series of coastal terraces in Mendocino, California.

    Endophyte richness decreased in plants with higher leaf nitrogen‐to‐phosphorus ratios for both host species, but increased with sodium, which may be toxic to fungi at high concentrations. Isolation frequency, a proxy of fungal biomass, was not significantly predicted by any of the same leaf constituents in the two plant species.

    We propose that stressed plants can exhibit both low foliar nutrients or high levels of toxic compounds, and that both of these stress responses predict endophyte species richness. Stressful conditions that limit growth of fungi may increase their diversity due to the suppression of otherwise dominating species. Differences between the host species in their endophyte communities may be explained by host specificity, leaf phenology, or microclimates.

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  4. Abstract

    Predator–prey interactions shape ecosystems and can help maintain biodiversity. However, for many of the earth's most biodiverse and abundant organisms, including terrestrial arthropods, these interactions are difficult or impossible to observe directly with traditional approaches. Based on previous theory, it is likely that predator–prey interactions for these organisms are shaped by a combination of predator traits, including body size and species‐specific hunting strategies. In this study, we combined diet DNA metabarcoding data of 173 individual invertebrate predators from nine species (a total of 305 individual predator–prey interactions) with an extensive community body size data set of a well‐described invertebrate community to explore how predator traits and identity shape interactions. We found that (1) mean size of prey families in the field usually scaled with predator size, with species‐specific variation to a general size‐scaling relationship (exceptions likely indicating scavenging or feeding on smaller life stages). We also found that (2) although predator hunting traits, including web and venom use, are thought to shape predator–prey interaction outcomes, predator identity more strongly influenced our indirect measure of the relative size of predators and prey (predator:prey size ratios) than either of these hunting traits. Our findings indicate that predator body size and species identity are important in shaping trophic interactions in invertebrate food webs and could help predict how anthropogenic biodiversity change will influence terrestrial invertebrates, the earth's most diverse animal taxonomic group.

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