Novel fungal disease in complex leaf-cutting ant societies

David Peter Hughes, Harry C. Evans, Nigel Hywel-Jones, Jacobus J. Boomsma, Sophie A O Armitage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

1. The leaf-cutting ants practise an advanced system of mycophagy where they grow a fungus as a food source. As a consequence of parasite threats to their crops, they have evolved a system of morphological, behavioural, and chemical defences, particularly against fungal pathogens (mycopathogens). 2. Specific fungal diseases of the leaf-cutting ants themselves have not been described, possibly because broad spectrum anti-fungal defences against mycopathogens have reduced their susceptibility to entomopathogens. 3. Using morphological and molecular tools, the present study documents three rare infection events of Acromyrmex and Atta leaf-cutting ants by Ophiocordyceps fungi, agenus of entomopathogens that is normally highly specific in its host choice. 4. As leaf-cutting ants have been intensively studied, the absence of prior records of Ophiocordyceps suggests that these infections may be a novel event and that switching from one host to another is possible. To test the likelihood of this hypothesis, host switching was experimentally induced, and successfully achieved, among five distinct genera of ants, one of which was in a different sub-family than the leaf-cutter ants. 5. Given the substantial differences among the five host ants, the ability of Ophiocordyceps to shift between such distant hosts is remarkable; the results are discussed in the context of ant ecological immunology and fungal invasion strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-220
Number of pages7
JournalEcological Entomology
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2009

Fingerprint

fungal disease
leaf-cutting ants
Ophiocordyceps
ant
Formicidae
entomopathogens
Acromyrmex
Atta
cutters
fungi
mycophagy
immunology
infection
fungus
chemical defense
society
cutting (process)
parasites
pathogens
crops

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science

Cite this

Hughes, D. P., Evans, H. C., Hywel-Jones, N., Boomsma, J. J., & Armitage, S. A. O. (2009). Novel fungal disease in complex leaf-cutting ant societies. Ecological Entomology, 34(2), 214-220. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2311.2008.01066.x
Hughes, David Peter ; Evans, Harry C. ; Hywel-Jones, Nigel ; Boomsma, Jacobus J. ; Armitage, Sophie A O. / Novel fungal disease in complex leaf-cutting ant societies. In: Ecological Entomology. 2009 ; Vol. 34, No. 2. pp. 214-220.
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Hughes, DP, Evans, HC, Hywel-Jones, N, Boomsma, JJ & Armitage, SAO 2009, 'Novel fungal disease in complex leaf-cutting ant societies', Ecological Entomology, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 214-220. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2311.2008.01066.x

Novel fungal disease in complex leaf-cutting ant societies. / Hughes, David Peter; Evans, Harry C.; Hywel-Jones, Nigel; Boomsma, Jacobus J.; Armitage, Sophie A O.

In: Ecological Entomology, Vol. 34, No. 2, 04.2009, p. 214-220.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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