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Evolution of attine ant symbioses

Attine ants are major herbivores in the neotropics. The ants cultivate homobasidiomycete fungi in the genus Leucocoprinus (and related taxa), to which they feed leaf material.

Studies by Chapela at al. and Mueller et al. used rDNA sequences to show that there are several lineages of cultivars among the homobasidiomycetes—implying that there have been multiple instances of domestication.>

Free-living forms nested within cultivar clades may represent “escapes” from domestication.

Escovopsis is an ascomycetous fungal pathogen of the ant gardens. A study by Currie et al. suggested that the phylogeny of Escovopsis, the associated ant fungi, and the ants are all congruent. This suggests that the three lineages are co-speciating.


Chapela, I. H., S. A. Rehner, T. R. Schultz, and U. G. Mueller. 1994. Evolutionary history of the symbiosis between fungus-growing ants and their fungi. Science 266:1691-1694.

Currie, C., B. Wong, A. E. Stuart, T. R. Schultz, S. A. Rehner, U. G. Mueller, G.-H. Sung, J. W. Spatafora, and N. A. Strauss. 2003. Ancient tripartite coevolution in the attine ant-microbe symbiosis. Science 299: 386-388.

Mueller, U. G., S. A. Rehner, and T. R. Schultz. 1998. The evolution of agriculture in ants. Science 281: 2034-2038.

The humongous fungus

How many fungi in a grass root

Evolution of Lichen Symbioses

Mycorrhizae vs. non-photosynthetic plants

Evolution of ectomycorrhizal symbioses

Inter-kingdom host jumping in Clavicipitales

Attine ant symbioses


All content © 2005 AFTOL (Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life Project). Website managed by Jason Slot. AFTOL logo designed by Michal Skakuj. Contact Dr. David Hibbett with any questions. This page was last modified on 08/31/05. Development of this site is being supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation for research in fungal evolutionary biology (NSF award number DEB-0228657).