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Symbiont choice in a fungus-growing ant (Attini, Formicidae)

Summary: Symbiont choice in a fungus-growing ant
(Attini, Formicidae)
Ulrich G. Mueller,a,b
Jessica Poulin,c
and Rachelle M. M. Adamsa
Section of Integrative Biology, Patterson Laboratories, 1 University Station #C0930,
University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA, b
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute,
Apartado 2072, Balboa, Republic of Panama, and c
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology,
University of California at Irvine, Irvine, CA 92717, USA
Cultivars of fungus-growing (attine) ants are vertically transmitted through inheritance from parent to offspring nest, but
horizontal cultivar transfer between ant nests occurs occasionally, resulting in cultivar replacement within ant lineages. Two
mechanisms could theoretically prevent the invasion of suboptimal cultivar strains and thus stabilize ant­cultivar coevolution:
first, partner feedback inherent in vertical cultivar transmission and second, partner (symbiont) choice if the ants differentiate
between productive and inferior cultivars during replacements. To elucidate the nature of symbiont choice, we presented
workers of Cyphomyrmex muelleri with novel cultivars representing a phylogenetic cline of close and distant relatives of the native
C. muelleri cultivar. Workers invariably preferred their native cultivar, discriminating against even very close relatives of the native
cultivar. When given a choice between two non-native cultivar strains, workers accepted the strain most closely related to their


Source: Adams, Rachelle M. M. - Department of Entomology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Schultz, Ted - Curator of Hymenoptera, Department of Entomology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution


Collections: Biology and Medicine