Parasitism is a Strong Force Shaping the Fungus-Growing Ant–Microbe Symbiosis

  • Ainslie E. F. Little
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 17)


Parasitism is a biological stress that is relevant to organisms in every niche ­imaginable. There is ample evidence documenting the effects parasites have on individual hosts and on host populations, yet there has been little work done to review the importance or frequency of how a parasite influences the organisms it’s host interacts with – it’s host’s immediate community. There is, however, a shift occurring in the way scientists think about mutualisms, and people are beginning to move away from considering interactions that occur in isolation, or strictly a binary manner and toward considering symbioses as interactions embedded in a more complex community (Althoff et al., 2004, 2005; Currie et al., 1999a, b; Little and Currie, 2008). In this chapter, I discuss parasitic and mutualistic symbioses as important determinants of organismal diversity, radiation, and fitness, and I use the fungus-growing ant–microbe symbiosis as a model system in which to study ways that parasites shape the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of mutualistic organisms. I conclude with the hypothesis that mutualism may be a viable solution to parasitism and, in turn, discuss the possibility that parasitism may in fact contribute to evolutionary stability of persistent mutualisms.


Natural Enemy Fungus Garden Black Yeast Mutualistic Bacterium Nectar Robber 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Intellectual Property GroupQuarles and Brady LLPMadisonUSA

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