Navigation Links
Fungus-farming termites descend from an African rain forest Eve

Agriculture is not unique to humans: some insect groups have also evolved this way of life. One such group is the fungus-farming termites, which cultivate fungi as food inside their nests. Such termites can be found in both rain forest and savannah habitats in the Old World tropics, from Africa to Asia. But as researchers report this week, a combination of DNA sequence analysis and computer modelling suggests that termite agriculture originated in the African rain forest, and gave rise to the many fungus-cultivating termite species alive today in various parts of the Old World.

The relationship between the termites and the cultivated fungus represents an impressive example of mutualistic symbiosis. The termites use chewed plant material, such as wood and dry grass, to feed the fungus and allow it to flourish, while the fungus converts otherwise indigestible plant material into nutrients the termites can utilize. Earlier work had shown that in the evolutionary past, a single, unreversed, transition to agriculture occurred in which termites domesticated a single lineage of fungi, represented today by the genus Termitomyces, a white rot fungus. These fungi are some of the few organisms that can digest the plant component lignin. Within the termite colonies, which can grow very large, the fungus grows on a special structure called the comb, which is maintained by the termites by the continual addition of new plant material.

Researchers Duur Aanen (University of Copenhagen) and Paul Eggleton (The Natural History Museum London), having sampled 58 colonies of fungus-cultivating termites (representing 49 species) in Senegal, Cameroon, Gabon, Kenya, South Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysian Borneo, now provide strong evidence that termite agriculture originated in African rain forest. Their reconstruction of ancestral habitats is based on the habitat of living species and analysis of DNA-based reconstructions of termite relationships.< /p>

The rain forest origin of fungus-growing termites is remarkable, as extant species of fungus-growing termites are ecologically (in terms of their relative contribution to decomposition processes) and evolutionarily (in terms of species numbers) most successful in savannah ecosystems. The researchers hypothesize that the ecological success of fungus-growing termites in savannas is due to the adoption of a highly successful rain forest process (fungal white-rot decay) by domesticating white-rot fungi. By offering those domesticated fungi a constant supply of growth substrate, and humid, highly buffered, rain forest like climatic conditions in their nests, termites have been able to export this rain forest process into the savannas. The marrying of termites and fungi in a mutualistic symbiosis has thus allowed both partners to conquer the savannah: agricultural termites and their mutualistic fungi are both more successful in this habitat than each of their non-agricultural sister groups, which thrive in the rain forest.

Interestingly, those results have some parallels to the origin and subsequent evolution of human agriculture. Human agriculture is also believed to have originated in relatively favourable areas to which most domesticable plants and animals were native. From the homelands of domestication, agriculture has later spread to other regions, including to much more unfavourable areas. This occurred either by the adoption of an agricultural lifestyle by local hunter-gatherers, or, and probably more often, through replacement of local hunter-gatherers by farmers. The agricultural lifestyle has allowed both humans and their domesticated organisms to exploit unfavourable areas more effectively and to reach far higher population densities than each of their non-agricultural relatives can alone. Furthermore, besides their agricultural proficiency, fungus-farming termites resemble humans in another respect: just like the human female ancestor was Afri can, so was the 'Eve' of fungus-growing termites, and just as humans later migrated out of Africa, so have fungus-farming termites. Evidence suggests they have colonised Asia at least four times.


'"/>

Source:Cell Press


Related biology news :

1. Extinct giant deers descendant found in UK
2. New push for public health, AIDS spending at African Union summit
3. South African Tribunal Asks For Damages Estimates in GSK AIDS Drug Case
4. Six million Africans face famine because of locusts, drought
5. Poaching, logging, and outbreaks of Ebola threaten central African gorillas and chimpanzees
6. Compound might defeat African sleeping sickness, clinical trial beginning this month
7. Crisis in African fish supplies looms, experts warn Africa leaders
8. New partnership to clear landmines for African Elephants
9. US/African project deciphers deadly parasite genome
10. Tropical Atlantic cooling and African deforestation correlate to drought, report scientists
11. Newly identified mechanism helps explain why people of African descent are more vulnerable to TB
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:6/2/2016)... 2016 Perimeter Surveillance & Detection ... Physical Infrastructure, Support & Other Service  The ... offers comprehensive analysis of the global Border Security ... revenues of $17.98 billion in 2016. Now: ... leader in software and hardware technologies for advanced video ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... May 12, 2016 WearablesResearch.com , a ... the overview results from the Q1 wave of its ... wave was consumers, receptivity to a program where they ... a health insurance company. "We were surprised ... says Michael LaColla , CEO of Troubadour Research, ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... and LONDON , ... Finacle, part of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary ... Onegini today announced a partnership to integrate the ...      (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ) ... provide their customers enhanced security to access and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Mosio, a leader in ... Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research professionals, Mosio ... practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape of how ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SPRING, Md. , June 23, 2016 A ... collected from the crime scene to track the criminal down. ... and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The ... genome sequencing to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016  The Biodesign Challenge (BDC), a university competition ... harness living systems and biotechnology, announced its winning teams ... New York City . The ... projects at MoMA,s Celeste Bartos Theater during the daylong ... senior curator of architecture and design, and Suzanne ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... ... In a new case report published today in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, doctors ... being treated for breast cancer benefitted from an injection of stem cells derived from ... frequent side effect of cancer treatment. , Lymphedema refers to the swelling ...
Breaking Biology Technology: