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J Invertebr Pathol. 2008 Jul;98(3):262-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jip.2008.02.017. Epub 2008 Mar 7.

Evolution of entomopathogenicity in fungi.

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USDA, ARS Biological Integrated Pest Management Research Unit, Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health, Tower Road, Ithaca, NY 14853-2901, USA.


The recent completions of publications presenting the results of a comprehensive study on the fungal phylogeny and a new classification reflecting that phylogeny form a new basis to examine questions about the origins and evolutionary implications of such major habits among fungi as the use of living arthropods or other invertebrates as the main source of nutrients. Because entomopathogenicity appears to have arisen or, indeed, have lost multiple times in many independent lines of fungal evolution, some of the factors that might either define or enable entomopathogenicity are examined. The constant proximity of populations of potential new hosts seem to have been a factor encouraging the acquisition or loss of entomopathogenicity by a very diverse range of fungi, particularly when involving gregarious and immobile host populations of scales, aphids, and cicadas (all in Hemiptera). An underlying theme within the vast complex of pathogenic and parasitic ascomycetes in the Clavicipitaceae (Hypocreales) affecting plants and insects seems to be for interkingdom host-jumping by these fungi from plants to arthropods and then back to the plant or on to fungal hosts. Some genera of Entomophthorales suggest that the associations between fungal pathogens and their insect hosts appear to be shifting away from pathogenicity and towards nonlethal parasitism.

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