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Annu Rev Entomol. 2017 Jan 31;62:285-303. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-031616-035105. Epub 2016 Nov 16.

The Ambrosia Symbiosis: From Evolutionary Ecology to Practical Management.

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School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611; email:
Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
Citrus Research and Education Center, University of Florida, Lake Alfred, Florida 33850; email:


The ambrosia beetle-fungus farming symbiosis is more heterogeneous than previously thought. There is not one but many ambrosia symbioses. Beetle-fungus specificity is clade dependent and ranges from strict to promiscuous. Each new origin has evolved a new mycangium. The most common relationship with host trees is colonization of freshly dead tissues, but there are also parasites of living trees, vectors of pathogenic fungi, and beetles living in rotten trees with a wood-decay symbiont. Most of these strategies are driven by fungal metabolism whereas beetle ecology is evolutionarily more flexible. The ambrosia lifestyle facilitated a radiation of social strategies, from fungus thieves to eusocial species to communities assembled by attraction to fungal scent. Although over 95% of the symbiotic pairs are economically harmless, there are also three types of pest damage: tree pathogen inoculation, mass accumulation on susceptible hosts, and structural damage. Beetles able to colonize live tree tissues are most likely to become invasive pests.


agriculture; pest management; plant pathogens; social evolution; specificity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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