Relationship between leaf cutter ants and funginix

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relationship between leaf cutter ants and funginix

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The relationship between attine ants and the Lepiotaceae fungus is so specialized that in many cases the Lepiotaceae is not even found outside of ant colony nests.

Ant–fungus mutualism

It is clear that evolutionary pressure has been exerted on these ants to develop such an organized system in which to feed the fungus and continue its reproduction. Studies done with the concept of the prisoner's dilemma in mind to test what further drives partner fidelity among species have shown that external factors are an even greater driving force.

The effects of cheating ants ants who did not bring plant biomass for fungal food had a much smaller effect on the fitness of the relationship than when the fungi cheated by not providing gongylidia. Though external factors play a large role in maintaining fidelity between the mutualists, genetic evidence of vertical transmission of partner fidelity has been found among asexual, fungus cultivating ant species. The species Cyatta abscondita is considered the most recent ancestor of all leaf-cutting ants.

They fall roughly into three major groups, only G1 having evolved gongylidia. Some G2 species grow long hyphae that form a protective cover over the nest. This means that the fungus is taking atmospheric nitrogen and reducing the nitrogen to produce ammonium. Even after the nest uses the nitrogen that it needs, there is still a large amount of available nitrogen that can be entered into the surrounding system. This replenishes the nutrient poor tropical environment with an essential limiting nutrient Pinto-Tomas, Decomposition The ants cut and collect a huge amount of forest vegetation each year.

Needless to say, this has a huge effect on the tropical forest system.

Ant–fungus mutualism - Wikipedia

The decomposition effect of the ant-fungal-bacterial relationship needs to be considered when assessing the environmental impact of the relationship.

When the plant material is brought to the nest, decomposition is aided by the ants chewing and initially breaking down the material, which can then be used as a substrate for the fungi. This speeds up decomposition in one place that would be spread out around the forest.

Decomposition could also be hindered by the toxic qualities of the leaves leaving them inedible to other macro or micro invertebrates. Decomposition is also aided by the previously mentioned nitrogen fixation process. Bringing nitrogen into the system helps to decrease the carbon to nitrogen ratio which speeds up the decomposition processes.

Leaf-cutter ants

Niche This is a split side view of an underground chamber where the fungus and the queen is housed. Every new colony starts with a small room like this one,which starts with a queen moving to a new place carrying the fungus in her mouth. Nest Characteristics Nests begin when a queen ant leaves one nest with a small amount of the fungus in her mouth and moves to a different area to start her own colony. Once a nest becomes established, the colonies can grow to have millions of ants in them.

relationship between leaf cutter ants and funginix

These subterranean nests vary in sizes. They can be small with a single fungus growing "room" or can be multiple feet below ground with many different rooms and complex tunnels.

Ants are also known as organized and clean insects.

relationship between leaf cutter ants and funginix

They have certain refuse dumps where the worker ants take the garbage and seclude it from the rest of the colony to decrease contamination. Major Players There are a total of five major players that interact with the leafcutter ants. There are the attine ants, their cultivated Lepiotaceae fungi, the parasitic fungal escovopsis parasites that feed on the cultivated fungi, and the latest partner; the black yeast found on the ants to help rid the colony of antagonistic invaders.

Ants The group of ants that are LeafCutters belong to the tribe attini and their genera is Atta and acromyrmex These ants have been around for the better part of 50 million years. Interestingly, these ants are consume the largest amount of primary producers in the tropical rainforest areas which is not surprising considering their biomass is four times the amount of other invertebrates.

World wide, these insects take up a third of the total insect biomass. Fungi Playing the role of both a decomposer and the primary food source for the Leafcutters, the fungi from the family Lepiotaceae is grown underground in the nests chambers by the worker ants.

Other types of fungi can creep into the system, but are taken care of by the ants and are not allowed to keep surviving in the system.

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Bacteria Actinomycete bacteria are found in the underbellies of the worker ants. If the ants are in often close contact with the fungus, they tend to have more bacteria on them. This is because the bacteria has a special property that acts as antibiotic against other molds and fungi, except the ants' food source, the Lepiotaceae fungus.

relationship between leaf cutter ants and funginix

Parasites Battling against the ant's seemingly clean fungis' agriculture are parasites that would quickly take over the colony's fungus growth if not carefully weeded against.

These can be competing molds or funguses that would come along and compete with the fungi for the delicious broken down vegetation. The ant's fungi cant survive against the invaders. Some of these parasites are refered to as escovopsis, and would feed on the fungus Reynolds, Before the Arab Spring the military was Egypt's most critical political body, a stabilizing force in a country of weak politicians and weaker governance.

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  • Leaf-cutter ants
  • Leaf Cutter Ants
  • Leafcutter ants, fungi, and bacteria

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relationship between leaf cutter ants and funginix