Symbiotic fungi alter plant chemistry that discourages leaf-cutting ants
Last updated: 3 Jul, 2013
Interesting paper published in the April 2013 – 198(1) – issue of New Phytologist exploring why leaf-cutting ants target some plants and avoid others. The study by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, (Apartado, Republic of Panama) and Tulane University, (New Orleans, LA, USA), showed that leaf cutting ants (Atta colombica) preferred to harvest leaves from cucumber leaves containing lower densities of the fungal symbiont Colletotrichum tropicale (an endophyte). The study goes on to show that these endophytes changed leaf chemistry and suggests that compounds with relative low volatility released after leaf wounding are a major factor influencing foraging decisions by ants when choosing between plants with low or high endophyte loads.
The bioassay conditions.