Insects. 2021 Feb 28;12(3):204. doi: 10.3390/insects12030204.
Studies on carton nesting ants and domatia-dwelling ants have shown that ant-fungi interactions may be much more common and widespread than previously thought. Until now, studies focused predominantly on parasitic and mutualistic fungi-ant interactions occurring mostly in the tropics, neglecting less-obvious interactions involving the fungi common in ants’ surroundings in temperate climates. In our study, we characterized the mycobiota of the surroundings of Formica polyctena ants by identifying nearly 600 fungal colonies that were isolated externally from the bodies of F. polyctena workers. The ants were collected from mounds found in northern and central Poland. Isolated fungi were assigned to 20 genera via molecular identification (ITS rDNA barcoding). Among these, Penicillium strains were the most frequent, belonging to eight different taxonomic sections. Other common and widespread members of Eurotiales, such as Aspergillus spp., were isolated very rarely. In our study, we managed to characterize the genera of fungi commonly present on F. polyctena workers. Our results suggest that Penicillium, Trichoderma, Mucor, Schwanniomyces and Entomortierella are commonly present in F. polyctena surroundings. Additionally, the high diversity and high frequency of Penicillium colonies isolated from ants in this study suggest that representatives of this genus may be adapted to survive in ant nests environment better than the other fungal groups, or that they are preferentially sustained by the insects in nests.