How Ants Became the World’s Best Fungus Farmers | Science | Smithsonian
Some tropical ants collect leaves which they use to grow fungi in their undergound nests. The leafcutter ants, or attine ants, include the genus Atta and they eat a form a true symbiosis, with both partners benefiting from the relationship. , Method for production and use of pathogenic fungal preparation .. Certain leaf-cutting ants, termites and wood-boring beetles are known to .. hyphae encapsulating materials, yeasts, bacteria, fungi perfecti and imperfecti, etc. .. Just as the social insects have complex relationships with fungi in. Other Unusual Relationships Marty Crump Immunological and Molecular Aspects of Bacterial Virulence. and the Cost of a Mutualistic Bacterium in the Leaf-Cutting Ant Acromyrmex octospinosus. Fungi Perfecti. animesost.infoerfecti. com.
Overview[ edit ] Fungus-growing ants actively propagate, nurture and defend the basidiomycete cultivar.
Mycoattractants and mycopesticides - Stamets, Paul
In some advanced genera the queen ant may take a pellet of the fungus with her when she leaves to start a new colony. Lower agriculture is the most primitive system and is currently practiced by 80 species in 10 genera. Attini form twelve genera with over species, which for the most part cultivate Lepiotaceae fungi of the tribe Leucocoprineae.
One of the more distinguishing factors between these two subgroups is their respective cultivars and cultivar substrates. Lower attines have less specialized cultivars that more closely resemble Leucocoprineae found in the wild and use "ancestral substrates" composed of plant, wood, arthropod, and flower detritus. The higher attines, on the other hand, use freshly cut grass, leaves, and flowers as their fungi substrate hence the common name "leafcutter ants" and cultivate highly derived fungi.
The fungus Escovopsis is a parasite in ant colonies, and the bacterium Pseudonocardia has a mutualistic relationship with ants. Pseudonocardia resides on the ants' integuments and assists in defending the ants from Escovopsis through the production of secondary metabolites. The yeast has a negative effect on the bacteria that normally produce antibiotics to kill the parasitic fungus and so may affect the ants' health by allowing the parasite to spread.
As she leaves, she takes with her a cluster of mycelium the vegetative portion of the fungus and actually begins a new fungal garden at her resting point using this mycelium. This grows to become the new fungal farm complete with the genes of the original cultivar preserved for another generation of ants.Leaf-cutter Ants - Science Nation
For example, parasitism is a symbiotic relationship where one species benefits at the expense of another. Another type of symbiotic relationship called commensalism, which is when one species is not affected by the relationship while the other species benefits. Mutualism, as you may suspect, is a symbiotic relationship where every species involved benefits in some way.
If you want the perfect example of mutualism, look no further than the leaf cutter ant.
Leaf Ants and Mutualism Image via Flickr by dullhunk Leaf ants get their name from their habit of leaving their colony to forage for leaves. After cutting leaves, the ants will bring them back to their colony. Instead, they are used to grow fungus within the leaf cutter ant colony, which is where mutualism comes into play.
When leaf ants bring foliage back to their colony, they will grind up the leaves.
Once this process is complete, they will place the plant material in a fungus garden so that the fungus can grow. The ants will then eat the fungus. So, the ants and the fungus that they grow are involved in mutualism. The fungus is provided with the plant material it needs to grow and the ants have a consistent food source. Another example of mutualism when it comes to leaf cutter ants has to do with how the ants maintain their fungus garden.
Fungus can only grow if it is free from pests, which means the leaf ants must constantly tend their garden to prevent these fungi pests from spreading.
On the skin of leaf ants live bacteria whose only purpose is preventing fungi pests. Leaf ants and the bacteria on their skin are also involved in mutualism because the bacteria are allowed to live on the ants in exchange for helping the ants care for their fungus garden.
Now that you know the basics of leaf cutter ants mutualism, we can dive into this subject in greater detail. During mating season, a young leaf ant queen will set out to start a new colony.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
In order to do so, she takes a small amount of fungus from her old colony. The queen will lay her eggs and build a chamber for the fungus. Once the eggs hatch, the new worker ants will be responsible for tending to the fungus to support mutualism. Until that time occurs, the queen will take care of the fungus.