Social-insect fungus farming

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Duur Kornelis Aanen, Jacobus Jan Boomsma

Which social insects rear their own food? Growing fungi for food has evolved twice in social insects: once in new-world ants about 50 million years ago; and once in old-world termites between 24 and 34 million years ago [1] and [2]. The termites domesticated a single fungal lineage - the extant basidiomycete genus Termitomyces - whereas the ants are associated with a larger diversity of fungal lineages (all basidiomycetes). The ants and termites forage for plant material to provision their fungus gardens. Their crops convert this carbon-rich plant material into nitrogen-rich fungal biomass to provide the farming insects with most of their food (Figure 1). No secondary reversals to the ancestral life style are known in either group, which suggests that the transitions to farming were as drastically innovative and irreversible as when humans made this step about 10,000 years ago.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number24
Pages (from-to)R1014-R1016
Publication statusPublished - 2006

ID: 1092491