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PLoS One. 2013 Dec 20;8(12):e82265. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082265. eCollection 2013.

Yet more "weeds" in the garden: fungal novelties from nests of leaf-cutting ants.

Author information

1
Departamento de Entomologia, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
2
Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures-Fungal Biodiversity Centre, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
3
Departamento de Fitopatologia, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
4
Departamento de Entomologia, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil ; Departamento de Fitopatologia, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil ; Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International, Egham, Surrey, United Kingdom.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Symbiotic relationships modulate the evolution of living organisms in all levels of biological organization. A notable example of symbiosis is that of attine ants (Attini; Formicidae: Hymenoptera) and their fungal cultivars (Lepiotaceae and Pterulaceae; Agaricales: Basidiomycota). In recent years, this mutualism has emerged as a model system for studying coevolution, speciation, and multitrophic interactions. Ubiquitous in this ant-fungal symbiosis is the "weedy" fungus Escovopsis (Hypocreales: Ascomycota), known only as a mycoparasite of attine fungal gardens. Despite interest in its biology, ecology and molecular phylogeny--noting, especially, the high genetic diversity encountered--which has led to a steady flow of publications over the past decade, only two species of Escovopsis have formally been described.

METHODS AND RESULTS:

We sampled from fungal gardens and garden waste (middens) of nests of the leaf-cutting ant genus Acromyrmex in a remnant of subtropical Atlantic rainforest in Minas Gerais, Brazil. In culture, distinct morphotypes of Escovopsis sensu lato were recognized. Using both morphological and molecular analyses, three new species of Escovopsis were identified. These are described and illustrated herein--E. lentecrescens, E. microspora, and E. moelleri--together with a re-description of the genus and the type species, E. weberi. The new genus Escovopsioides is erected for a fourth morphotype. We identify, for the first time, a mechanism for horizontal transmission via middens.

CONCLUSIONS:

The present study makes a start at assigning names and formal descriptions to these specific fungal parasites of attine nests. Based on the results of this exploratory and geographically-restricted survey, we expect there to be many more species of the genus Escovopsis and its relatives associated with nests of both the lower and higher Attini throughout their neotropical range, as suggested in previous studies.

PMID:
24376525
PMCID:
PMC3869688
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0082265
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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