Taking a square of home with you: Farming fungi in a new Azteca termite colony

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Moving to a new home is customarily accompanied with a prolonged to-do list, from portrayal a walls to unpacking boxes. For immature queen Azteca ants however, one critical pursuit is to start flourishing fungus. Many pleasant termite class are famous for their mutualistic attribute with fungi, delicately cultivating and tillage opposite fungi class to use as food or building materials or even to trap prey. However, when and how a fungiculture is started is still a mystery. Do new queens enlightenment fungi that usually start to be around in their new home during a time of colonization? And how shortly after their attainment do queens start flexing their cultivation prowess? To answer these questions, Veronika Mayer from a University of Vienna and some of her colleagues set off to a tropics of Costa Rica in a hunt of young Cecropia plants that make ideal new homes for immature black ants.

Azteca termite held in a routine of colonizing a Ceropia plant.

In sum they sampled 64 plants anticipating 212 foundress queens during several stages of colonizing tiny chambers within a plant stem. In dual instances, a researchers were propitious adequate to locate a colonization routine from start to finish. They watched as a immature queens wearied their approach into a vale branch of the Ceropia trees and afterwards throw divided a white parenchyma backing a stems to block a hole. In further to regulating a parenchyma to patch adult a hole, a group also celebrated a queens delicately aggregation tiny piles of parenchyma within a form itself.

To see if these piles contained mildew and if so, what form of fungus, a researchers collected 52 samples of a parenchyma to demeanour for traces of fungal hyphen and to remove DNA. They found that mildew was usually benefaction in parenchyma samples taken from chambers where a black was also present. Unfortunately, a researchers couldn’t snippet foundress ants behind to their mom colonies to directly review a fungal class though they were means to review DNA sequences performed from new colonies to DNA sequences performed from a representation of determined colonies. The group found a good understanding of overlie between a two, suggesting that a new queens used really identical fungal class as used as in determined colonies. Given a likeness with determined colonies and a fact a fungi found usually paint a tiny percent of all fungi species, it seems expected that fungi are ecstatic in some approach by queens from their mom colony. When Mayer and her colleagues examined a essence of a infrabuccal form of 4 foundress ants they also found traces of fungal spores and hyphens.  Like a hamster, it’s probable that these ants can squirrel divided and ride fungal elements that could be useful for environment adult a tiny fungi farm.

Piling adult parenchyma in a form of a Cecropia plants (panels A B) Evidence of mildew (panels B, D C).

Next, a researchers labelled a fungiculture rags with 15N isotope to snippet who accurately was eating a fungal crop. Interestingly, a group didn’t find any snippet of 15N in a foundress queens though they did find an accumulation of 15N in a larvae of destiny workman ants. It seems that queens aren’t directly profiting from their tillage skills though are regulating a fungal food to feed their destiny workforce instead. Setting adult a new cluster is a dangerous knowledge for foundress queens as it requires a lot of energy. Without her workers, a black herself has no approach to reinstate her appetite and risks her possess death, so creation certain her larvae are good fed to support their expansion and expansion is a high priority for any new queen.


Overall a team’s observations have helped uncover a poser behind fungiculture in Azteca ants.  Their investigate suggests that fungal expansion doesn’t start serendipitously from fungal spores or hyphen already benefaction in a plant cavity, though since foundress ants move fungi with them from their home nest. The fact that new queens start stockpiling parenchyma true divided is covenant to fungiculture’s significance in a colony’s survival.  So, next time you’re relocating residence and bemoaning your to-do list, spare a suspicion for the Azteca ant tillage divided to safeguard her survival, when we can usually sequence a take-away pizza!

Source: PLOS EveryONE

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