This topic of “Certain species of which one of the following organisms are well known as cultivators of fungi?” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.
The correct answer is A) Ant.
- Ants, specifically leafcutter ants, are well known as cultivators of fungi. Leafcutter ants actively propagate, nurture, and defend certain species of fungi in the Lepiotaceae family. In return, the fungus provides nutrients for the ants. This symbiotic relationship is highly specialized, with the fungi being completely dependent on the ants for survival.
- Cockroach: Cockroaches are considered pests, not cultivators of fungi. There is no evidence of cockroaches actively farming fungi.
- Crab: Crabs do not cultivate fungi. Some fungal infections have been reported in crabs, but there is no symbiotic relationship.
- Spider: There is no evidence of spiders cultivating fungi. Spiders prey on insects and other small invertebrates, they do not have a symbiotic relationship with fungi.
- The ant-fungus mutualism between leafcutter ants and Lepiotaceae fungi is estimated to have begun 60-65 million years ago in South America.
- There are over 200 species of attine ants that cultivate fungi. They can be divided into “lower” and “higher” attine ants based on the complexity of their fungal agriculture.
- The fungi grown by attine ants are obligate symbionts, meaning they cannot survive without the ants in natural environments. The fungi provide food for the ants while the ants propagate the fungi.
- Leafcutter ants cut sections of leaves and carry them to their underground nests. The leaves are used as compost to grow the fungus garden, which is the ants’ primary food source.
- Leafcutter ants have complex foraging behaviors, using pheromone trails to guide other ants. They protect their fungus gardens from pests and remove diseased sections.
- Bacteria that grow on the ants produce antibiotics that protect the fungus garden from parasites and disease.