Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Oecologia. 2001 Jun;128(1):99-106. doi: 10.1007/s004420100630. Epub 2001 Jun 1.

Prevalence and impact of a virulent parasite on a tripartite mutualism.

Author information

1
Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin, 78712, Austin, TX, USA.

Abstract

The prevalence and impact of a specialized microfungal parasite (Escovopsis) that infects the fungus gardens of leaf-cutting ants was examined in the laboratory and in the field in Panama. Escovopsis is a common parasite of leaf-cutting ant colonies and is apparently more frequent in Acromyrmex spp. gardens than in gardens of the more phylogenetically derived genus Atta spp. In addition, larger colonies of Atta spp. appear to be less frequently infected with the parasite. In this study, the parasite Escovopsis had a major impact on the success of this mutualism among ants, fungi, and bacteria. Infected colonies had a significantly lower rate of fungus garden accumulation and produced substantially fewer workers. In addition, the extent of the reduction in colony growth rate depended on the isolate, with one isolate having a significantly larger impact than two others, suggesting that Escovopsis has different levels of virulence. Escovopsis is also spatially concentrated within parts of ant fungus gardens, with the younger regions having significantly lower rates of infection as compared to the older regions. The discovery that gardens of fungus-growing ants are host to a virulent pathogen that is not related to any of the three mutualists suggests that unrelated organisms may be important but primarily overlooked components of other mutualistic associations.

KEYWORDS:

Escovopsis; Leaf-cutting ants; Mutualism; Parasitism; Symbiosis

PMID:
28547096
DOI:
10.1007/s004420100630

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center