Date of this Version
Microbiology Ecology (2012) pp. 1-13;DOI: 10.1111/1574-6941.12026
Insect fungus gardens consist of a community of interacting microorganisms that can have either beneficial or detrimental effects to the farmers. In contrast to fungus-farming ants and termites, the fungal communities of ambrosia beetles and the effects of particular fungal species on the farmers are largely unknown. Here, we used a laboratory rearing technique for studying the filamentous fungal garden community of the ambrosia beetle, Xyleborinus saxesenii, which cultivates fungi in tunnels excavated within dead trees. Raffaelea sulfurea and Fusicolla acetilerea were transmitted in spore-carrying organs by gallery founding females and established first in new gardens. Raffaelea sulfurea had positive effects on egg-laying and larval numbers. Over time, four other fungal species emerged in the gardens. Prevalence of one of them, Paecilomyces variotii, correlated negatively with larval numbers and can be harmful to adults by forming biofilms on their bodies. It also comprised the main portion of garden material removed from galleries by adults. Our data suggest that two mutualistic, several commensalistic and one to two pathogenic filamentous fungi are associated with X. saxesenii. Fungal diversity in gardens of ambrosia beetles appears to be much lower than that in gardens of fungus-culturing ants, which seems to result from essential differences in substrates and behaviours.