Ecology and evolution of the use of antimicrobials in the public health system of fungus-farming ants
Hermógenes Fernández-Marín, Hermógenes Fernández-Marín
Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas y Servicios de Alta Tecnología (INDICASAT AIP), Cuidad del Saber, Clayton, Panamá, Republica de Panamá.; Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas y Servicios de Alta Tecnología (INDICASAT AIP), Cuidad del Saber, Clayton, Panamá, Republica de Panamá.
Fungus-farming ant colonies vary 4-5 orders of magnitude in size since phylogenetically lower species with dozens workers per nest to highly derived species with 7 millions of workers. They employ compounds from actinomycete bacteria, exocrine glands, cultivar basidiomycetes, and from microbial communities associated with ant nest, as antimicrobial agents. I am studying how ants can integrate their antimicrobial arsenal into public health strategies when challenged by Escovopsis, a specialized fungal pathogen. I hypothesize that the costs of antimicrobial strategies limit the diversity of elements that ants could use against Escovopsis. At species level, ant could integrate 1-2 antimicrobial strategies simultaneously. At a phylogenetic perspective, the evolution of antimicrobial strategies could be defined by the metabolic cost of using the elements specific, and not the epidemiological traits of Escovopsis. The results indicate that at the species level, ants employ up to two strategies simultaneously, but using a strategy as the main defensive source. While the evolution of hygienic strategies appears to be conserved at phylogenetic levels, and our evidence could support that changing strategies evolve to simplifying the ant-microbes symbiotic system.