Ants in the tribe Attini share the ability to cultive fungi for food. In this association, the fungus provides nutrients for the colony. In turn, ants provide protection and dispersion of the fungal partner. Fungi in the genus Escovopsis are specific parasites of the fungus cultivated by attine ants. Previous studies have focused on Escovopsis strains infecting the fungus cultivated by leaf-cutting ants, the most derived group within the tribe Attini. However, few studies evaluated the interactions of Escovopsis towards the fungus cultivated by the lower attines. Our research group described the first species of Escovopsis (E. kreiselii) from colonies of lower attine ants, however, the pathogenicity and virulence of E. kreiselii remain unknown. Using in vitro bioassays, we will investigate the specificity and pathogenicity of E. kreiselii and other Escovopsis strains isolated from lower attine colonies. The results of the present study will gather novel information regarding the biology of these important fungi in order to build knowledge about the interaction of Escovopsis and the fungus cultivated by the lower attine ants.
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