2,065 research outputs found

    Diversity, prevalence and virulence of fungal entomopathogens in colonies of the ant Formica selysi

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    The richness of the parasitic community associated with social insect colonies has rarely been investigated. Moreover, understanding how hosts and pathogens interact in nature is important to interpret results from laboratory experiments. Here, we assessed the diversity, prevalence and virulence of fungal entomopathogens present around and within colonies of the ant Formica selysi. We detected eight fungal species known to be entomopathogenic in soil sampled from the habitat of ants. Six of these entomopathogens were found in active nests, abandoned nests, and corpses from dump piles or live ants. A systematic search for the presence of three generalist fungal entomopathogens in ant colonies revealed a large variation in their prevalence. The most common of the three pathogens, Paecilomyces lilacinus, was detected in 44% of the colonies. Beauveria bassiana occurred in 17% of the colonies, often in association with P. lilacinus, whereas we did not detect Metarhizium brunneum (formerly M. anisopliae) in active colonies. The three fungal species caused significant mortality to experimentally challenged ants, but varied in their degree of virulence. There was a high level of genetic diversity within B. bassiana isolates, which delineated three genetic strains that also differed significantly in their virulence. Overall, our study indicates that the ants encounter a diversity of fungal entomopathogens in their natural habitat. Moreover, some generalist pathogens vary greatly in their virulence and prevalence in ant colonies, which calls for further studies on the specificity of the interactions between the ant hosts and their fungal pathogen

    Understanding the Neural Bases of Implicit and Statistical Learning

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    © 2019 Cognitive Science Society, Inc. Both implicit learning and statistical learning focus on the ability of learners to pick up on patterns in the environment. It has been suggested that these two lines of research may be combined into a single construct of “implicit statistical learning.” However, by comparing the neural processes that give rise to implicit versus statistical learning, we may determine the extent to which these two learning paradigms do indeed describe the same core mechanisms. In this review, we describe current knowledge about neural mechanisms underlying both implicit learning and statistical learning, highlighting converging findings between these two literatures. A common thread across all paradigms is that learning is supported by interactions between the declarative and nondeclarative memory systems of the brain. We conclude by discussing several outstanding research questions and future directions for each of these two research fields. Moving forward, we suggest that the two literatures may interface by defining learning according to experimental paradigm, with “implicit learning” reserved as a specific term to denote learning without awareness, which may potentially occur across all paradigms. By continuing to align these two strands of research, we will be in a better position to characterize the neural bases of both implicit and statistical learning, ultimately improving our understanding of core mechanisms that underlie a wide variety of human cognitive abilities

    Ant queens (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) are attracted to fungal pathogens during the initial stage of colony founding

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    Ant queens that attempt to disperse and found new colonies independently face high mortality risks. The exposure of queens to soil entomopathogens during claustral colony founding may be particularly harmful, as founding queens lack the protection conferred by mature colonies. Here, we tested the hypotheses that founding queens (I) detect and avoid nest sites that are contaminated by fungal pathogens, and (II) tend to associate with other queens to benefit from social immunity when nest sites are contaminated. Surprisingly, in nest choice assays, young Formica selysi BONDROIT, 1918 queens had an initial preference for nest sites contaminated by two common soil entomopathogenic fungi, Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium brunneum. Founding queens showed a similar preference for the related but non-entomopathogenic fungus Fusarium graminearum. In contrast, founding queens had no significant preference for the more distantly related nonentomopathogenic fungus Petromyces alliaceus, nor for heat-killed spores of B. bassiana. Finally, founding queens did not increase the rate of queen association in presence of B. bassiana. The surprising preference of founding queens for nest sites contaminated by live entomopathogenic fungi suggests that parasites manipulate their hosts or that the presence of specific fungi is a cue associated with suitable nesting sites

    Experimentally increased group diversity improves disease resistance in an ant species.

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    A leading hypothesis linking parasites to social evolution is that more genetically diverse social groups better resist parasites. Moreover, group diversity can encompass factors other than genetic variation that may also influence disease resistance. Here, we tested whether group diversity improved disease resistance in an ant species with natural variation in colony queen number. We formed experimental groups of workers and challenged them with the fungal parasite Metarhizium anisopliae. Workers originating from monogynous colonies (headed by a single queen and with low genetic diversity) had higher survival than workers originating from polygynous ones, both in uninfected groups and in groups challenged with M. anisopliae. However, an experimental increase of group diversity by mixing workers originating from monogynous colonies strongly increased the survival of workers challenged with M. anisopliae, whereas it tended to decrease their survival in absence of infection. This experiment suggests that group diversity, be it genetic or environmental, improves the mean resistance of group members to the fungal infection, probably through the sharing of physiological or behavioural defences
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