Every Ant Tells a Story - And Scientists Explain Their Stories Here
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Gomez et al. (2017) - Laboulbeniales is an order of ascomycetous fungi consisting of over 2000 species that have obligate association with arthropods, mostly insects, especially Coleoptera and Diptera, and on a few ant species, mites, thrips and millipedes (Tavares, 1985). Those fungi show a rather high level of host specificity. Their study remains in a challenging interface, between entomologists and mycologists and, consequently, clearly belong in the domain of a very few specialists in the world.

Ants are known to harbor six species of Laboulbeniales: two species of the genus Rickia Cavara (on Myrmica or Messor hosts), one Dimorphomyces (on Nylanderia) and three species of Laboulbenia (on Camponotus, Lasius, Formica, Polyergus, Myrmecocystus, Prenolepis, Eciton). The global database of published ant- Laboulbeniales interactions contains 125 instances, from 95 localities and 28 countries (unpub. data).

In the splendid work on the Ants of the Congo Basin (Wheeler, 1922), Bequaert writes about general ant-fungus relationships, and mentions Laboulbeniales noting “... they are inconspicuous and, when examined in situ on the host insect, appear in general like minute, usually dark-colored or yellowish bristles or bushy hairs, projecting from its chitinous integument either singly or in pairs, more commonly scattered, but often densely crowded over certain areas on which they form a furry coating.”. The thallus attaches to the insect cuticle with a darkened foot. There are no penetrating hyphae or rhizoids into the ant body cavity in Laboulbenia formicarum Thaxter and L. camponoti Batra, or Rickia wasmannii Cavara and R. lenoirii Santamaria (Tragust et al., 2016). Therefore, the energy source(s) for growing and reproducing in ant-Laboulbeniales is unknown. This is an intriguing and fundamental issue to unravel in the biology of Laboulbeniales.

Sortable table
Ant Fungus Country
Camponotus aethiops Laboulbenia camponoti Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Spain
Camponotus baldaccii Laboulbenia camponoti Turkey
Camponotus oasium Laboulbenia camponoti Senegal
Camponotus pilicornis Laboulbenia camponoti Spain
Camponotus sp. Laboulbenia camponoti Bulgaria, India
Camponotus sylvaticus Laboulbenia camponoti Spain
Camponotus universitatis Laboulbenia camponoti Bulgaria