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Genetic Diversity of Fungi Occurring in Nests of Three Acromyrmex Leaf-Cutting Ant Species from Córdoba, Argentina

A. B. Abril and E. H. Bucher
Microbial Ecology
Vol. 54, No. 3 (Oct., 2007), pp. 417-423
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25256213
Page Count: 7
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Genetic Diversity of Fungi Occurring in Nests of Three Acromyrmex Leaf-Cutting Ant Species from Córdoba, Argentina
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Abstract

It is assumed in current literature that the fungus garden cultivated by leaf-cutting ants consists of a single fungus species, the putative mutualistic fungus. However, most studies report a very high rate of fungi contamination (fungi isolated from fungus gardens that are considered not to be the mutualistic fungus). In this article, we report a genetic similarity analysis of all fungi (regardless of their mutualistic condition) isolated from 16 fungus gardens of three Acromyrmex species in Córdoba, Argentina, using intersimple sequence repeat (ISSR) as genetic markers. We isolated 60 clones, of which the three primers employed yielded 53 loci. The patterns revealed a high interclone polymorphism, with a few bands shared by the clones. Of all possible pairwise comparisons, 99% showed a genetic similarity (S) lower than 0.5, the threshold level assumed for fungus Operational Taxonomy Unit (OTU). We found more than one fungus OTU in all studied nests (range 2-11). Cumulative number of OTUs increased linearly with the number of nests sampled. The number of fungus OTUs common to both ant species and sites was very small. We did not find a core group composed of few very common OTUs, as expected if a set of truly mutualistic OTU was present. A simple explanation for the high number of OTUs found is that they are regular components of the fungus garden, which may be used as food source by the ants.

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