Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2010) 100, 531-537

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Kenji Matsuura and Toshihisa Yashiro (2010)
Parallel evolution of termite-egg mimicry by sclerotium-forming fungi in distant termite groups
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 100 (3), 531-537
Abstract: Among the great diversity of insect-fungus associations, fungal mimicry of termite eggs is a particularly fascinating consequence of evolution. Along with their eggs, Reticulitermes termites often harbour sclerotia of the fungus Fibularhizoctonia sp., called 'termite balls', giving the fungus competitor-free habitat within termite nests. The fungus has evolved sophisticated morphological and chemical camouflage to mimic termite eggs. To date, this striking insect-fungus association has been found in eight temperate termite species, but is restricted to the lower termite genera Reticulitermes and Coptotermes. Here, we report the discovery of a novel type of termite ball ('Z-type') in the subtropical termite, Nasutitermes takasagoensis. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the Z-type termite ball is an undescribed Trechisporoid fungus, Trechispora sp., that is phylogenetically distant from Fibularhizoctonia, indicating two independent origins of termite-egg mimicry in sclerotium-forming fungi. Egg protection bioassays using dummy eggs revealed that Reticulitermes speratus and N. takasagoensis differ in egg-size preference. A comparative study of termite ball size and egg-size preference of host termites showed that both fungi evolved a termite ball size that optimized the acceptance of termite balls as a unit investment. Termite-egg mimicry by these fungi offers a model case of parallel evolution.
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Link to article at publishers website
Database assignments for author(s): Kenji Matsuura, Toshihisa Yashiro

Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:
general biology - morphology - evolution
environment - cropping system/rotation

Pest and/or beneficial records:

Beneficial Pest/Disease/Weed Crop/Product Country Quarant.

Nasutitermes takasagoensis