Laboratory studies with Leucoagaricus and attine ants

Fisher, P.J.; Stradling, D.J.

Tropical mycology volume 1, macromycetes: 113-130

2001


Accession: 003829810

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Abstract
The successive formation of four separate Leucoagaricus basidiome aggregates in a living nest of the leafcutter ant Atta cephalotes is described. Colonies of A. cephalotes (queen, workers and brood) were artificially regenerated on a moist plastic sponge in a plastic container supplied with approximately 20 g of mature fungus garden. In June 1993, an incipient basidiome began to develop in the enlarged colony. Subsequent aggregations of new basidiomes developed every 2-3 weeks usually above the central line of the fungus garden. After approximately 10 weeks, the process terminated. The basidiomes gradually moved downwards during their formation as a new fungus garden was added on top of the colony and the old garden was removed from below by the ants. The ants appeared to feed their larvae preferentially on developing basidiome tissue. The basidiomes were hollowed out by the ants from the inside, resulting in the destruction of the hymenial tissues before these could ripen to produce basidiospores. To relate the basidiome tissue to the mycelial form of the fungus, ten aggregates of cheilocystidial elements were then dissected from the hymenium. After approximately 1 week, all the incubated fragments showed new mycelial growth. After 15 days, aggregates of gongylidia formed at the edges of these colonies. The microfungi in the fungus gardens of A. cephalotes are identified and the fungus-ant relationship is characterized.