Co-evolutionary patterns and diversification of ant-fungus associations in the asexual fungus-farming ant Mycocepurus smithii in Panama

J Evol Biol. 2013 Jun;26(6):1353-62. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12140. Epub 2013 May 3.

Abstract

Partner fidelity through vertical symbiont transmission is thought to be the primary mechanism stabilizing cooperation in the mutualism between fungus-farming (attine) ants and their cultivated fungal symbionts. An alternate or additional mechanism could be adaptive partner or symbiont choice mediating horizontal cultivar transmission or de novo domestication of free-living fungi. Using microsatellite genotyping for the attine ant Mycocepurus smithii and ITS rDNA sequencing for fungal cultivars, we provide the first detailed population genetic analysis of local ant-fungus associations to test for the relative importance of vertical vs. horizontal transmission in a single attine species. M. smithii is the only known asexual attine ant, and it is furthermore exceptional because it cultivates a far greater cultivar diversity than any other attine ant. Cultivar switching could permit the ants to re-acquire cultivars after garden loss, to purge inferior cultivars that are locally mal-adapted or that accumulated deleterious mutations under long-term asexuality. Compared to other attine ants, symbiont choice and local adaptation of ant-fungus combinations may play a more important role than partner-fidelity feedback in the co-evolutionary process of M. smithii and its fungal symbionts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants / genetics
  • Ants / microbiology
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • Fungi / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Symbiosis

Substances

  • DNA

Associated data

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