Symbiont policing and mutualism maintenance
Investigating whether one or more mycoviruses suppress sexual reproduction in the fungal crops of fungus-growing ants.
The fungus-growing ants are one of the oldest group of farmers. In a complicated and ingenious cooperation with fungal and bacterial symbionts they have been able to improve the degradation of plant material over millions of years.
Even though the fungal and ant symbionts are in an obligate mutualism, there is a constant conflict between the partners to get the most out of the cooperation. The fungal symbiont of the genus Leucoagaricus is a mushroom forming fungus, however, growth of mushrooms is suppressed.
My goal is to understand why this fungus is rarely growing mushrooms using both molecular and microscopy methods. Furthermore, I will try to uncover the full diversity of the fungal symbionts and their close relatives in order to better understand the evolution of this mutualism.
In general, I’m using molecular and behavioral techniques to understand the evolution and ecology of the mutualism-parasitism continuum.
Kooij, P. W., Rogowska-Wrzesinska, A., Hoffmann, D., Roepstorff, P., Boomsma, J. J. & Schiøtt, M. (2014)
The ISME Journal 8: 1032-1040. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.231
Kooij, P. W., Liberti, J., Giampadoukis, K., Schiøtt, M. & Boomsma, J. J. (2014)
PLoS ONE 9(4), e94284, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094284.s001
Kooij, P. W., Schiøtt, M., Boomsma, J.J. & De Fine Licht, H. H. (2011)
Insectes Sociaux 58: 145-151. doi: 10.1007/s00040-010-0127-9
Visser, A. A., Kooij, P. W., Debets, A. J. M., Kuyper, T. W. & Aanen, D. K. (2011)
Fungal Ecology 4: 322-332. doi: 10.1016/j.funeco.2011.05.003