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Multiple new species of Ophiocordyceps on ants

By João P. M. Araújo, David P. Hughes

Posted 09 Apr 2015
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/017723

In tropical forests, one of the most common relationships between parasites and insects is that between the fungus Ophiocordyceps (Ophiocordycipitaceae, Hypocreales, Ascomycota) and ants, especially within the tribe Camponotini. These fungi have the ability to penetrate the exoskeleton of the ant and to manipulate the behavior of the host, making it leave the nest and ascend understorey shrubs, to die biting onto the vegetation: hence, the term zombie-ant fungi to describe this behavioral changes on the host. It is posited that this behavioral change aids spore dispersal and thus increases the chances of infection. Despite their undoubted importance for ecosystem functioning, these fungal pathogens are still poorly documented, especially regarding their diversity, ecology and evolutionary relationships. Here, we describe multiple new and host-specific species of the genus Ophiocordyceps on Camponotus and Polyrhachis ants from the central Amazonian region of Brazil, USA, Australia and Japan, which can readily be separated using classic taxonomic criteria, in particular ascospore morphology.

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