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Forage collection, substrate preparation and diet composition in fungus-growing ants

de Fine Licht, Henrik Hjarvard LU and Boomsma, J.J. (2010) In Ecological Entomology 35(3). p.259-269
Abstract
1. Variation and control of nutritional input is an important selective force in the evolution of mutualistic interactions and may significantly affect coevolutionary modifications in partner species.



2. The attine fungus-growing ants are a tribe of more than 230 described species (12 genera) that use a variety of different substrates to manure the symbiotic fungus they cultivate inside the nest. Common ‘wisdom’ is that the conspicuous leaf-cutting ants primarily use freshly cut plant material, whereas most of the other attine species use dry and partly degraded plant material such as leaf litter and caterpillar frass, but systematic comparative studies of actual resource acquisition across the attine ants have not been... (More)
1. Variation and control of nutritional input is an important selective force in the evolution of mutualistic interactions and may significantly affect coevolutionary modifications in partner species.



2. The attine fungus-growing ants are a tribe of more than 230 described species (12 genera) that use a variety of different substrates to manure the symbiotic fungus they cultivate inside the nest. Common ‘wisdom’ is that the conspicuous leaf-cutting ants primarily use freshly cut plant material, whereas most of the other attine species use dry and partly degraded plant material such as leaf litter and caterpillar frass, but systematic comparative studies of actual resource acquisition across the attine ants have not been done.



3. Here we review 179 literature records of diet composition across the extant genera of fungus-growing ants. The records confirm the dependence of leaf-cutting ants on fresh vegetation but find that flowers, dry plant debris, seeds (husks), and insect frass are used by all genera, whereas other substrates such as nectar and insect carcasses are only used by some.



4. Diet composition was significantly correlated with ant substrate preparation behaviours before adding forage to the fungus garden, indicating that diet composition and farming practices have co-evolved. Neither diet nor preparation behaviours changed when a clade within the paleoattine genus Apterostigma shifted from rearing leucocoprinous fungi to cultivating pterulaceous fungi, but the evolutionary derived transition to yeast growing in the Cyphomyrmex rimosus group, which relies almost exclusively on nectar and insect frass, was associated with specific changes in diet composition.



5. The co-evolutionary transitions in diet composition across the genera of attine ants indicate that fungus-farming insect societies have the possibility to obtain more optimal fungal crops via artificial selection, analogous to documented practice in human subsistence farming. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
foraging, coevolution, Attini, Formicidae, fungus gardens, mutualism
in
Ecological Entomology
volume
35
issue
3
pages
259 - 269
publisher
Wiley-Blackwell
external identifiers
  • scopus:77953668269
ISSN
1365-2311
DOI
10.1111/j.1365-2311.2010.01193.x
language
English
LU publication?
no
id
23224754-ffb2-41ad-86a9-a74f52f09cce (old id 1970605)
date added to LUP
2011-06-14 16:02:11
date last changed
2018-07-15 03:11:31
@article{23224754-ffb2-41ad-86a9-a74f52f09cce,
  abstract     = {1. Variation and control of nutritional input is an important selective force in the evolution of mutualistic interactions and may significantly affect coevolutionary modifications in partner species.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
2. The attine fungus-growing ants are a tribe of more than 230 described species (12 genera) that use a variety of different substrates to manure the symbiotic fungus they cultivate inside the nest. Common ‘wisdom’ is that the conspicuous leaf-cutting ants primarily use freshly cut plant material, whereas most of the other attine species use dry and partly degraded plant material such as leaf litter and caterpillar frass, but systematic comparative studies of actual resource acquisition across the attine ants have not been done.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
3. Here we review 179 literature records of diet composition across the extant genera of fungus-growing ants. The records confirm the dependence of leaf-cutting ants on fresh vegetation but find that flowers, dry plant debris, seeds (husks), and insect frass are used by all genera, whereas other substrates such as nectar and insect carcasses are only used by some.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
4. Diet composition was significantly correlated with ant substrate preparation behaviours before adding forage to the fungus garden, indicating that diet composition and farming practices have co-evolved. Neither diet nor preparation behaviours changed when a clade within the paleoattine genus Apterostigma shifted from rearing leucocoprinous fungi to cultivating pterulaceous fungi, but the evolutionary derived transition to yeast growing in the Cyphomyrmex rimosus group, which relies almost exclusively on nectar and insect frass, was associated with specific changes in diet composition.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
5. The co-evolutionary transitions in diet composition across the genera of attine ants indicate that fungus-farming insect societies have the possibility to obtain more optimal fungal crops via artificial selection, analogous to documented practice in human subsistence farming.},
  author       = {de Fine Licht, Henrik Hjarvard and Boomsma, J.J.},
  issn         = {1365-2311},
  keyword      = {foraging,coevolution,Attini,Formicidae,fungus gardens,mutualism},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {259--269},
  publisher    = {Wiley-Blackwell},
  series       = {Ecological Entomology},
  title        = {Forage collection, substrate preparation and diet composition in fungus-growing ants},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2311.2010.01193.x},
  volume       = {35},
  year         = {2010},
}