|Fakultät für Biologie und Vorklinische Medizin|
|Institut für Zoologie|
|Lehrstuhl für Zoologie / Evolutionsbiologie|
|Dr. Eniko Csata|
Ants are frequently targeted by parasites, and in some cases, parasitic organisms induce changes in the life history, physiology and behavior of the ant hosts. Despite the protective nature of their social system: bacteria, fungi, mites, fluke worms, nematodes, beetles, butterflies and even other ants are known to parasitise ants. Fungi are one of the most diverse groups, with respect to both systematics, lifestyle, and display a wide variety of interactions with ants from transient to obligate associations. Most of these species are known from the tropics, where they exhibit spectacular morphology (e.g. Cordyceps species). In Europe, there are just a few ant parasitize fungus species, most of which are insufficiently known. Only scarce data is available on their phylogenetic position, geographic range, host specificity and on their effect on the host. My research focuses on the fungi species Pandora formicae, Rickia wasmannii and Metarhizium brunneum.
Importance of nutrition to infection resistance
How parasite infection influences macronutrient balancing in ants? What are the nutrients that the parasite derives from its host ant? How parasite influences the collective behaviour of ant host?. Solitary animals often alter their food choices following infection in order to increase immune function. Whether social animals that collect food for their brood or nestmates adjust their nutrient intake to the infection states of their social partners is virtually unexplored. I try to understand the complexity of parasite-host interactions and host defense mechanisms underlying animal nutrition, both at an individual and collective level. I use two different fungi species: (1) an obligate ectoparasitic fungus from the order Laboulbeniales: Rickia wasmannii, which are some of the most unusual fungi known, as they lack a mycelium. It is a specialist fungus species and the ant Myrmica scabrinodis is one of the most frequent host of the fungus. Further on, (2) a generalist entomopathogenic fungus: Metarhizium brunneum.
I would like to thank the Alexander von Humboldt foundation for funding my stay in Regensburg.