Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Cooperation, conflict, and coevolution in the attine ant-fungus symbiosis


Author Info

  • Natasha J. Mehdiabadi
  • Benjamin Hughes
  • Ulrich G. Mueller
Registered author(s):


    Fungus-growing ants in the tribe Attini represent a classic example of a mutualism. These ants obligately depend on fungus as their major food source, while the fungus receives both vegetative substrate (nourishment) from the ants and protection from pathogens. Here, we try to identify both benefits and costs of the association by using cultivar switch experiments. We assessed the benefits to each mutualistic partner by replacing the native fungus (cultivar) used by the primitive attine ant species Cyphomyrmex muelleri with a novel cultivar, that of the closely related ant species Cyphomyrmex longiscapus. We show that interspecific cultivar switches caused a significant decline in worker number, garden biomass, and the number of reproductives produced by colonies. In contrast, these effects were not seen in intraspecific switches. We also examined possible costs of the mutualistic association. We estimated colony sex ratios for C. longiscapus to determine whether cultivars can bias reproductive allocation toward females; such bias may evolve because only female reproductives can disperse the fungus, and males are therefore of no value to the fungus. However, intraspecific cultivar switches did not significantly affect ant sex ratios. Cultivar switch experiments represent a new tool for studying cooperation, conflict, and coevolution between mutualistic partners in the attine ant-fungus symbiosis. Copyright 2006.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by International Society for Behavioral Ecology in its journal Behavioral Ecology.

    Volume (Year): 17 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 2 (March)
    Pages: 291-296

    as in new window
    Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:17:y:2006:i:2:p:291-296

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, UK
    Fax: 01865 267 985
    Web page:

    Order Information:

    Related research

    Keywords: Attini; benefits; costs; Cyphomyrmex longiscapus; Cyphomyrmex muelleri; Formicidae; fungus-growing ants; Hymenoptera; mutualism; sex allocation; sex ratios;


    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    1. Friedrich, T., 2009. "Wise exploitation – a game with a higher productivity than cooperation – transforms biological productivity into economic productivity," MPRA Paper 22862, University Library of Munich, Germany.


    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:17:y:2006:i:2:p:291-296. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press) or (Christopher F. Baum).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.