Sunday, November 30, 2008

Leafcutter bacterial symbiosis update

As we've been exploring the complex web of mutualisms, predation, and parasitism in the fungus-gardening leafcutting ant system here is a research update straight from the lab of Cameron Currie, providing more detail on the coevolving "arms race" between
the baterical that produce anti-pest compounds which wad off pest-fungal species from taking over the garden.

The article also clarifies a point we didn't discuss uly in classbut wshich is an imporant one in therm so thinking about the bacteria/ant mutualism - is it only a place to grow that the bacteria get in exchange for teir anti-pest activites? Apparently not:

So what do the bacteria get out of producing pesticides for the ants? "For starters, they get food. Many species of fungus-growing ants have evolved special crypts on their bodies where the bacteria live and grow. Scientists believe that the ants feed the bacteria through glands connected to these crypts," said Dr Garret Suen, a post-doctoral fellow in Professor Currie's lab. "Also, the bacteria get a protected environment in which to grow, away from the intense competition they would face if they lived in other environments such as the soil."


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