The genus Ophiocordyceps contains the most diverse assemblage of fungi attacking ants worldwide and are remarkably well adapted to the specific ecologies of their hosts. Desmidiospora myrmecophila is closely related to ant-pathogenic species within Ophiocordyceps, possibly specific to queens, but the sheer infrequency of encounters and previously unsuccessful attempts to culture this fungus has precluded any meaningful assessment until now. A new record of Desmidiospora myrmecophila from Louisiana was found infecting a foundress Camponotus pennsylvanicus queen, the same host species favored by the more common and ubiquitous ant-pathogenic Ophiocordyceps unilateralis found in the same geographic locality. To evaluate a long-held assumption that these fungi represent synanamorphs of a single species, we sampled our Desmidiospora specimen along with the local O. unilateralis population for molecular comparison. We are able to present for the first time the in vitro characteristics and morphology of Desmidiospora myrmecophila as well as a phylogenetic context for this fungus based on combined molecular analysis of representative members of the Ophiocordycipitaceae. Our results place the Desmidiospora myrmecophila lineage within the genus Ophiocordyceps but with a basal affiliation to the ant-pathogen clade. These results further implicate Desmidiospora myrmecophila as an important and quintessential example of cryptic diversity among an already taxonomically diverse and ecologically important group of fungi.
|Advisor:||Fredericq, Suzanne L.|
|Commitee:||Pesacreta, Thomas C., Sigel, Erin M.|
|School:||University of Louisiana at Lafayette|
|School Location:||United States -- Louisiana|
|Source:||MAI 58/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Biology, Molecular biology, Systematic biology|
|Keywords:||Anamorph, Desmidiospora, Entomopathogen, Foundress, Hirsutelloid, Myrmecophilous|
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