Navigation Links
Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History reveals ants as fungus farmers
Date:3/24/2008

It turns out ants, like humans, are true farmers. The difference is that ants are farming fungus.

Entomologists Ted Schultz and Sen Brady at the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History have published a paper in the March 24 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, providing new insight into the agricultural abilities of ants and how these abilities have evolved throughout time. Using DNA sequencing, the scientists were able to construct an evolutionary tree of fungus-growing ants, which revealed a single pioneering ancestor that discovered agriculture approximately 50 million years ago.

In the past 25 million years, four different specialized agricultural systems have evolved, leading to the most recently evolved and best-known fungus-growing ant speciesleaf-cutter ants. The ants do not eat the leaves; they grow their fungus gardens on them and then eat the fungus. By studying the agricultural evolution of leaf-cutter ants, as well as various other species, scientists may be able to develop improved human agricultural and medical methods.

Agriculture is very rare in the animal world, said Schultz. We only know of four animal groups that have discovered agriculture: ants, termites, bark beetles and humans. By studying certain fungus-growing ants, which our study indicates are almost like living fossils, we might be able to better understand steps involved in the evolution of ant agriculture.

To complete their research, scientists spent more than 15 years assembling a comprehensive array of specimens, which included 91 ant species, 65 of which were fungus-growing ant species representing all different groups of fungus-growing ants. Researchers then used DNA sequencing, combined with a variety of state-of-the-art computer algorithms, to construct an evolutionary tree of fungus-growing ants. Dominican amber fungus-growing ant fossils were used to calibrate time intervals on the evolutionary tree.

From this evolutionary tree, scientists were able to determine that fungus-growing ants are all descended from a common ancestor that pioneered agriculture 50 million years ago during a period of global warming. The researchers also determined that in the past 25 million years, four different specialized agricultural systems emerged.

Each of these systems has its own unique set of cultivated fungi. For example, approximately 20 million years ago one group of fungus-growing ants discovered higher agriculture, meaning they cultivated their fungi to produce specialized fruits that the ants would harvest and eat for food. Leaf-cutter ants, which belong to this group, originated recentlyless than 10 million years ago. Finally, it also was discovered that there are certain fungus-growing ant species living in South America today that are missing links in evolution.

More information on fungus-growing ants can be found in the museums newest permanent exhibition, Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution.


'/>"/>

Contact: Michele Urie
202-633-2950
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Presidents science adviser to address IEEE International Homeland Security Conference
2. National Lung Cancer Partnership and LUNGevity Foundation
3. National Lung Cancer Partnership announces winner of 2007 Career Development Award
4. Rare North Island brown kiwi hatches at the Smithsonians National Zoo
5. International team announces discovery of massive Jurassic marine reptile
6. National Zoo scimitar-horned oryx going into the wild
7. Half time in the International Polar Year 2007-2008
8. Story tips from the Department of Energys Oak Ridge National Laboratory, March 2008
9. Iowa middle school wins IEEE-USA National Engineering Award
10. DHS Begins Collecting 10 Fingerprints From International Visitors at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
11. DHS Begins Collecting 10 Fingerprints From International Visitors at Orlando International Airport
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History reveals ants as fungus farmers
(Date:5/20/2016)...  VoiceIt is excited to announce its new ... By working together, VoiceIt and VoicePass will offer ... take slightly different approaches to voice biometrics, collaboration ... usability. Both ... "This marketing and technology partnership allows ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... , UAE, May 9, 2016 ... it comes to expanding freedom for high net worth ... Even in today,s globally connected world, there is still ... system could ever duplicate sealing your deal with a ... second passports by taking advantage of citizenship via investment ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... , April 28, 2016 First quarter ... (139.9), up 966% compared with the first quarter of 2015 ... totaled SEK 589.1 M (loss: 18.8) and the operating margin was ... (loss: 0.32) Cash flow from operations was SEK 249.9 ... 2016 revenue guidance is unchanged, SEK 7,000-8,500 M. The ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is pleased to announce ... Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI approval of the Peel ... President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate methods perform comparably to ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ON (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... STACS ... DNA Technical Leader at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, has joined STACS DNA as ... the STACS DNA team,” said Jocelyn Tremblay, President and COO of STACS DNA. “In ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... On Wednesday, June 22, 2016, the NASDAQ Composite ... Jones Industrial Average edged 0.27% lower to finish at 17,780.83; ... has initiated coverage on the following equities: Infinity Pharmaceuticals Inc. ... NKTR ), Aralez Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ARLZ ), ... more about these stocks by accessing their free trade alerts ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 ... market research report to its pharmaceuticals section with ... product details and much more. Complete ... across 151 pages, profiling 15 companies and supported ... at http://www.reportsnreports.com/reports/601420-global-cell-culture-media-industry-2016-market-research-report.html . The ...
Breaking Biology Technology: