such as "Introduction", "Conclusion"..etc
June 02, 2009 --
Fungus-farming ants have cultivated the same fungal crops for 50
million years. Each young ant queen carries a bit of fungus garden with
her when she flies away to mate and establish a new nest. Short breaks
in the ants' relationship with the fungus during nest establishment may
contribute to the stability of this long-term mutualism, according to a
study at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama.
were struck by the paradox that even though the ants transfer a single
fungal strain from generation to generation, nests of different ant
species, and even genera, throughout Central America share genetically
very similar fungi, indicating that there are exchanges going on
between fungi from different nests," said Michael Poulsen, who held a
Smithsonian short term fellowship while a doctoral student at the
University of Copenhagen. "In these experiments, we found that there is
a very short window of time--as the young queen establishes a new
nest--when partner switching can occur."
Ants in the genus Acromyrmex cultivate a single fungal species in their
nests: Leucoagaricus gonglyophorus. Mature ant colonies contain one
fungal clone--a single genotype, which uses several strategies to make
sure that other fungi do not invade.
Researchers noticed that
several queens from different colonies sometimes start nests very close
together and wondered if young queens were given fungi from a nest
other than their natal nest-would they treat it as their own fungal
"That's exactly what happens," said Poulsen, now research
associate at the University of Wisconsin. "Young queens adopt a fungus
from another nest and cultivate it in their new nest. This sort of
temporary partner switching probably acts as an evolutionary safety net
in the ant-fungus mutualism by preventing the accumulation of
deleterious mutations." Source : Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
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