Do attine ants forage for fungi?

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The attine fungus-growing ants are famous as agriculturalists, cultivating underground gardens. The highly specialized leafcutter ants provide their fungus with living vegetation, while other lineages prefer caterpillar frass or other vegetative debris. Recently in southern Illinois I observed Trachymyrmex workers carving sections from a mushroom:

Trachymyrmex septentrionalis

Genetic evidence suggests that occasionally fungus-growing ants swap cultivars from one lineage to another. Once- in Apterostigma– they even adopted a rather distantly related fungus. Might ants foraging on fungal fruiting bodies be the mechanism for new species to enter the system? Food for thought.


photo details:
Canon EOS 7D
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens
ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec
diffused overhead flash

5 thoughts on “Do attine ants forage for fungi?”

  1. I’ve always wondered how Trachymyrmex septentrionalis became able to spread threw the US while none of the other fungus growers have gotten past Texas and the south west. Maybe opening their pallet contributed to this?

    1. MrILoveTheAnts,
      Check out Jon Seal’s excellent experimental and observational work on T. sept foraging behavior, colony productivity, diet, and other observations if you want to know more about that particular fungus gardener.

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