Original Article

Histopathology of Laboulbeniales (Ascomycota: Laboulbeniales): ectoparasitic fungi on ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Tragust, S., Tartally, A., Espadaler, X. & Billen, J.

Abstract: Among the many associations between fungi and ants, the associations involving the ectoparasitic fungi Laboulbeniales (Ascomycota: Laboulbeniales) have remained largely enigmatic even today. However, for two of the six ant-parasitizing Laboulbeniales, it has been found that parasitism is correlated with diminished survival of their hosts, especially under resource limitation. In the present study, we investigate whether these fitness impacts are linked to an intrusion into the body cavity by the ectoparasites. Light, scanning and transmission electron microscopy were used to study the mode of attachment and the presence of penetrating structures in four of the six currently recognized ant-parasitizing Laboulbeniales. No indication of penetration was found, suggesting that the reported fitness impacts are not linked to an intrusion into the body cavity. A better understanding of host-parasite interactions involving Laboulbeniales on ant hosts is necessary, considering that Laboulbeniales parasitizing ants impact their hosts' fitness and that monitoring studies have revealed that an infection with Laboulbeniales is much more common in European ants than previously thought.

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