Title

The Distribution and Diversity of Symbiotic Microbial Communities Within a Widespread Neotropical Ant Host

Abstract

Turtle ants are diverse, arboreal ants unique for their odd anatomy and tree-dwelling lifestyle. One widespread neotropical species, Cephalotes atratus, harbors a wide range of microbial groups that greatly affect their biology. Studies have shown that associations among microbial lineages and turtle ant hosts vary geographically, but little is known about C. atratus’ endosymbiont variation both on the geographic and evolutionary level. My study focuses on the variation within three of the ant’s symbionts: Rhizobiales, a mutualistic order of bacteria that plays a crucial nutritional role within turtle ants; Cordyceps, a genus of endoparasitic fungi infecting many arthropod species; and Wolbachia, a genus of bacterial parasite that affects host reproduction. Gene regions were sequenced from these microbial groups to address microbial diversity and distribution within colonies, within populations and across the geographic range of C. atratus.

Faculty Sponsor

Arielle Cooley

Tracks

poster

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Location

Cordiner Hall

Presentation Type

Poster

Research Funding Source or OCS Program

Whitman Internship Grant

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The Distribution and Diversity of Symbiotic Microbial Communities Within a Widespread Neotropical Ant Host

Cordiner Hall

Turtle ants are diverse, arboreal ants unique for their odd anatomy and tree-dwelling lifestyle. One widespread neotropical species, Cephalotes atratus, harbors a wide range of microbial groups that greatly affect their biology. Studies have shown that associations among microbial lineages and turtle ant hosts vary geographically, but little is known about C. atratus’ endosymbiont variation both on the geographic and evolutionary level. My study focuses on the variation within three of the ant’s symbionts: Rhizobiales, a mutualistic order of bacteria that plays a crucial nutritional role within turtle ants; Cordyceps, a genus of endoparasitic fungi infecting many arthropod species; and Wolbachia, a genus of bacterial parasite that affects host reproduction. Gene regions were sequenced from these microbial groups to address microbial diversity and distribution within colonies, within populations and across the geographic range of C. atratus.

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