Thursday, November 11, 2004

From this month's issue of Evolution:

Palle Villesen, Ulrich G. Mueller, Ted R. Schultz, Rachelle M. M. Adams, and Amy C. Bouck. 2004. EVOLUTION OF ANT-CULTIVAR SPECIALIZATION AND CULTIVAR SWITCHING IN APTEROSTIGMA FUNGUS-GROWING ANTS. Evolution 58(10): 2252–2265.

Abstract.—Almost all of the more than 200 species of fungus-growing ants (Formicidae: Attini) cultivate litter-decomposing fungi in the family Lepiotaceae (Basidiomycota: Agaricales). The single exception to this rule is a subgroup of ant species within the lower attine genus Apterostigma, which cultivate pterulaceous fungi distantly related to the Lepiotaceae. Comparison of cultivar and ant phylogenies suggests that a switch from lepiotaceous to pterulaceous fungiculture occurred only once in the history of the fungus-growing ants. This unique switch occurred after the origin of the genus Apterostigma, such that the basal Apterostigma lineages retained the ancestral attine condition of lepiotaceous fungiculture, and none of the Apterostigma lineages in the monophyletic group of pterulaceous fungiculturists are known to have reverted back to lepiotaceous fungiculture. The origin of pterulaceous fungiculture in attine ants may have involved a unique transition from the ancestral cultivation of litter-decomposing lepiotaceous fungi to the cultivation of wood-decomposing pterulaceous fungi. Phylogenetic analyses further indicate that distantly related Apterostigma ant species sometimes cultivate the same cultivar lineage, indicating evolutionarily frequent, and possibly ongoing, exchanges of fungal cultivars between Apterostigma ant species. The pterulaceous cultivars form two sister clades, and different Apterostigma ant lineages are invariably associated with, and thus specialized on, only one of the two cultivar clades. However, within clades Apterostigma ant species are able to switch between fungi. This pattern of broad specialization by attine ants on defined cultivar clades, coupled with flexible switching between fungi within cultivar clades, is also found in other attine lineages and appears to be a general phenomenon of fungicultural evolution in all fungus-growing ants.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Confirming what we all knew anyway, Acanthomyops is really just a derived Lasius:

Milan Janda, Dagmar Folková and Jan Zrzavý. 2004. Phylogeny of Lasius ants based on mitochondrial DNA and morphology, and the evolution of social parasitism in the Lasiini (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Volume 33, Issue 3, December 2004, Pages 595-614.

Phylogeny of ants of the tribe Lasiini (Lasius, Acanthomyops, Prenolepis, Euprenolepis, Paratrechina, Pseudolasius, and Myrmecocystus) was analysed using 81 morphological, ecological, and behavioural characters (for 41 species) and mitochondrial DNA sequences (COI, COII, tRNA-Leu; for 19 species). The free-living subgenus Lasius s. str. is paraphyletic with respect to the rest of genus; the traditional “genus” Acanthomyops should be considered a part of Lasius s. lat.; free-living subgenus Cautolasius is a member of the clade of socially parasitic Lasius ants (=Chtonolasius + Acanthomyops + Austrolasius + Dendrolasius). The tree topology is congruent with two alternative scenarios of origin of the temporary social parasitism: (i) a single origin of the parasitic strategy in a derived subclade of Lasius and a secondary loss of this trait in Cautolasius, (ii) a parallel origin of the social parasitism within the clade of hypogeic Lasius ants (in Chtonolasius, and in Acanthomyops + Dendrolasius + Austrolasius). Emery’s rule in the strict sense does not apply to this group because most parasites exploit any ecologically available, even phylogenetically distant host species. The parasitic strategy in Lasius could have originated from the aggressive interactions between cofounding queens during pleometric colony founding and/or from the secondary queen adoption.