Pepijn Kooij

Early Career Research Fellow, Comparative Fungal Biology


Job title: 
Early Career Research Fellow, Comparative Fungal Biology
Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology
Foreign languages: 
Dutch, Spanish


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: 
  • 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: 

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

Further information

Twitter: @PepijnKooij