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Parasites in ant gardens: exploring host parasite interactions in fungus farming ants

Grant number: 18/50019-3
Support type:Regular Research Grants
Duration: July 01, 2018 - June 30, 2020
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Microbiology
Cooperation agreement: Emory University
Principal Investigator:André Rodrigues
Grantee:André Rodrigues
Principal investigator abroad: Nicole Marie Gerardo
Institution abroad: Emory University, United States
Home Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Rio Claro. Rio Claro, SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:17/12689-4 - Host-specificity and mechanisms of action of Escovopsis parasites found in the gardens of attine ants, AP.R

Abstract

Interactions between insects and microbes have fascinated several researchers for centuries, in part because of their ubiquity and in part because they can serve as model to understand how associations between species shape ecology and evolution. A classic example of insect-microbe interaction involves ants in the tribe Attini and their fungal associates. Attini ants use plant substrate to cultivate symbiotic fungi for food. Like other agricultural systems, the ant crops are hampered by disease. Fungi in the genus Escovopsis are parasites of the ant’s fungal crops, leading to a tripartite association of ants, mutualistic fungi and parasitic fungi. The research groups at UNESP and Emory University have played key roles in elucidating the diversity of Escovopsis species, and the evolutionary forces that shape their relationships with their hosts. The main goal of this SPRINT-FAPESP proposal is to merge the characterization of taxonomic diversity and systematics of Escovopsis conducted by the Rio Claro group on Brazilian samples with the insights gained through evolutionary ecology and genomics by the Emory group on Escovopsis using Central American samples. Thus, we intent to carry out two workshops, one hosted in Rio Claro and another in Atlanta. The two groups will have the opportunity to present data accumulated so far on Escovopsis diversity, ecology and genomics. Merging these two research programs will finally allow a complete understanding of the diversity and evolution of this system across is entire Neotropical distribution. (AU)

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