Elevational distribution and morphological attributes of the entomopathogenic fungi from forests of the Qinling Mountains in China
Entomopathogenic fungi are considered to be a safe microbiological pesticide alternative to chemical control. Efforts are underway to understand precisely their taxonomy and natural distribution through mycological and biodiversity studies based on molecular markers. Here, we present descriptions of the diversity of the entomopathogenic fungi in the genera Metarhizium and Beauveria found along the elevational gradients of the Qinling subtropical and temperate forests of Shaanxi province in China, using morphological aspects and molecular markers. Molecular characterization using the Mz_IGS3 intergenic region revealed that Metarhizium isolates phylogenetically clustered in the PARB clade with four different distinguishable species, but the 5′-TEF gene allowed only ambiguous delimitation of Metarhizium species. Beauveria isolates were characterized by se- quence analyses of the translation elongation factor 1-α and the Bloc region. The richness of Metarhizium species decreased with increasing elevation, with Metarhizium robertsii s.l. being the most abundant species along the elevational gradient. Our bioassay suggests that certain species of Metarhizium are significantly pathogenic to the insect model Tenebrio molitor at both the adult and larvae stages and could potentially serve as a control of insect pests of forests.