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Insects 2012, 3(1), 41-61; doi:10.3390/insects3010041
Review

The Evolutionary Innovation of Nutritional Symbioses in Leaf-Cutter Ants

1,2
, 1,2
 and 1,*
Received: 3 December 2011; in revised form: 16 December 2011 / Accepted: 20 December 2011 / Published: 6 January 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Symbiosis: A Source of Evolutionary Innovation in Insects)
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Abstract: Fungus-growing ants gain access to nutrients stored in plant biomass through their association with a mutualistic fungus they grow for food. This 50 million-year-old obligate mutualism likely facilitated some of these species becoming dominant Neotropical herbivores that can achieve immense colony sizes. Recent culture-independent investigations have shed light on the conversion of plant biomass into nutrients within ant fungus gardens, revealing that this process involves both the fungal cultivar and a symbiotic community of bacteria including Enterobacter, Klebsiella, and Pantoea species. Moreover, the genome sequences of the leaf-cutter ants Atta cephalotes and Acromyrmex echinatior have provided key insights into how this symbiosis has shaped the evolution of these ants at a genetic level. Here we summarize the findings of recent research on the microbial community dynamics within fungus-growing ant fungus gardens and discuss their implications for this ancient symbiosis.
Keywords: symbiosis; attine ants; Leucoagaricus; co-evolution; microbial consortia symbiosis; attine ants; Leucoagaricus; co-evolution; microbial consortia
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Aylward, F.O.; Currie, C.R.; Suen, G. The Evolutionary Innovation of Nutritional Symbioses in Leaf-Cutter Ants. Insects 2012, 3, 41-61.

AMA Style

Aylward FO, Currie CR, Suen G. The Evolutionary Innovation of Nutritional Symbioses in Leaf-Cutter Ants. Insects. 2012; 3(1):41-61.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Aylward, Frank O.; Currie, Cameron R.; Suen, Garret. 2012. "The Evolutionary Innovation of Nutritional Symbioses in Leaf-Cutter Ants." Insects 3, no. 1: 41-61.

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