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Resource competition between two fungal parasites in subterranean termites

Subterranean termites live in large groups in underground nests where the pathogenic pressure of the soil environment has led to the evolution of a complex interaction among individual and social immune mechanisms in the colonies. However, groups of termites under stress can show increased susceptibility to opportunistic parasites. In this study, an isolate of Aspergillus nomius Kurtzman, Horn & Hessltine was obtained from a collapsed termite laboratory colony. We determined that it was primarily a saprophyte and, secondarily, a facultative parasite if the termite immunity is undergoing a form of stress. This was determined by stressing individuals of the Formosan subterranean termite Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki via a co-exposure to the virulent fungal parasite Metarhizium anisopliae (Metch.) Sorokin. We also examined the dynamics of a mixed infection of A. nomius and M. anisopliae in a single termite host. The virulent parasite M. anisopliae debilitated the termite immune system, but the facultative, fast growing parasite A. nomius dominated the mixed infection process. The resource utilization strategy of A. nomius during the infection resulted in successful conidia production, while the chance for M. anisopliae to complete its life cycle was reduced. Our results also suggest that the occurrence of opportunistic parasites such as A. nomius in collapsing termite laboratory colonies is the consequence of a previous stress, not the cause of the stress.

Autoren:   Thomas Chouvenc, Caroline A. Efstathion, Monica L. Elliott, Nan-Yao Su
Journal:   Naturwissenschaften
Jahrgang:   2012
DOI:   10.1007/s00114-012-0977-2
Erscheinungsdatum:   20.10.2012
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