Disease management in farming societies of ants

Hovedområde:Molecular ecology
Målgruppe:Biology, Biochemistry
Niveau:Masters, Bachelor

Background: Our research has recently clarified that Acromyrmex leafcutter ants rear biofilms of actinobacteria on their cuticle that are extremely potent antibiotics producers. This symbiosis between ants and biocontrol pest management biofilms has been stable for a long time, suggesting the ants have found a way to avoid resistance problems.

A limited number of Pseudonocardia strains are key players in these biofilms, not only in evolutionary derived Acromyrmex but also in a few sister lineages of Trachymyrmex ants, which are fungus farmers, but not active herbivores.

A remarkable recent discovery has been that these Pseudonocardia strains are never part of cuticular biocontrol biofilms in phylogenetically more basal attine ants. However, here they can be consistently isolated as gut symbionts.

This suggests that these Pseudonocardia strains were originally domesticated by the ants for hygienic purposes in the gut, but what these functions are or might have been is unknown.

Several projects (from 7.5 to 60 ECTS) are available to answer questions like:

-          Does fecal fluid, used by the ants to manure their fungus gardens, have inhibitory effects on spore germination or hyphal growth on the only known crop disease of attine ants – fungi of the genus Escovopsis?
-          If so, do ants maintain more Pseudonocardia bacteria in their guts when they are gardeners and nurses early in life than when they are foragers later in life?
-          Do the ants actively increase the number of Pseudonocardia bacteria in their guts after their colony is experimentally infected with the fungal pathogen Escovopsis?

Competencies to be obtained: Ability to perform biochemical assays, PCR, droplet digital PCR and DNA extraction


Anvendte metoder:biochemical assays, PCR, droplet digital PCR, DNA extraction
Keywords:antibiotics, long-term stable disease control, resistance, microbiomes, Panama
Projekthjemmeside: https://socialevolution.ku.dk/home/
Vejleder(e): Jacobus J. Boomsma, Morten Schiøtt, postdocs