Dr Pepijn Kooij

Early Career Research Fellow


Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology


Comparative Fungal Biology


Ecology, evolution, entomology, mycology, fungus-growing ants, Attini, Agaricaceae, phylogenetics, genomics, Oxford Nanopore

Biography Plus

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.

Qualifications and appointments Plus
  • PhD, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 2014
  • MSc, Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands, 2009
  • BSc, Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands, 2007
Selected publications Plus

Kooij, P. W., Rogowska-Wrzesinska, A., Hoffmann, D., Roepstorff, P., Boomsma, J. J. & Schiøtt, M. (2014)

Leucoagaricus gongylophorus uses leaf-cutting ants to vector proteolytic enzymes towards new plant substrate

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)

Differences in forage-acquisition and fungal enzyme activity contribute to niche segregation in Panamanian leaf-cutting ants

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)

Rapid shifts in Atta cephalotes fungus-garden enzyme activity after a change in fungal substrate (Attini; Formicidae)

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)

Pseudoxylaria as stowaway of the fungus-growing termite nest: Interaction asymmetry between PseudoxylariaTermitomyces and free-living relatives

Fungal Ecology 4: 322-332. doi: 10.1016/j.funeco.2011.05.003

Projects Plus

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