Recognition of endophytic Trichoderma species by leaf-cutting ants and their potential in a Trojan-horse management strategy

Rocha, Silma L, Evans, Harry C, Jorge, Vanessa L, Cardoso, Lucimar A O, Pereira, Fernanda S T, Rocha, Fabiano B, Barreto, Robert W, Hart, Adam G ORCID: 0000-0002-4795-9986 and Elliot, Simon L (2017) Recognition of endophytic Trichoderma species by leaf-cutting ants and their potential in a Trojan-horse management strategy. Royal Society Open Science, 4 (4). pp. 1-14. doi:10.1098/rsos.160628

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Interactions between leaf-cutting ants, their fungal symbiont (Leucoagaricus) and the endophytic fungi within the vegetation they carry into their colonies are still poorly understood. If endophytes antagonistic to Leucoagaricus were found in plant material being carried by these ants, then this might indicate a potential mechanism for plants to defend themselves from leaf-cutter attack. In addition, it could offer possibilities for the management of these important Neotropical pests. Here, we show that, for Atta sexdens rubropilosa, there was a significantly greater incidence of Trichoderma species in the vegetation removed from the nests—and deposited around the entrances—than in that being transported into the nests. In a no-choice test, Trichoderma-infested rice was taken into the nest, with deleterious effects on both the fungal gardens and ant survival. The endophytic ability of selected strains of Trichoderma was also confirmed, following their inoculation and subsequent reisolation from seedlings of eucalyptus. These results indicate that endophytic fungi which pose a threat to ant fungal gardens through their antagonistic traits, such as Trichoderma, have the potential to act as bodyguards of their plant hosts and thus might be employed in a Trojan-horse strategy to mitigate the negative impact of leaf-cutting ants in both agriculture and silviculture in the Neotropics. We posit that the ants would detect and evict such ‘malign’ endophytes—artificially inoculated into vulnerable crops—during the quality-control process within the nest, and, moreover, that the foraging ants may then be deterred from further harvesting of ‘Trichoderma-enriched’ plants.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Fungal bodyguards; Leucoagaricus; Pest management; Silviculture; Trichoderma endophytes
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Q Science > QL Zoology > QL360 Invertebrates > QL 461 Insects
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Adam Hart
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2017 09:40
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:58

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