Fungus-growing termites have a mutualistic relationship with their cultivated fungi. To improve understanding of genetic aspects of this relationship, we examined molecular markers in the fungus-growing termite Odontotermes formosanus and its fungi Termitomyces spp. from the Ryukyu Archipelago. Based on the polymorphic band patterns obtained from arbitrarily primed polymerase chain reaction methods, we constructed cladograms for related colonies of the termites and fungi. The resulting trees indicated that the termites display little genetic variation among the colonies, while the symbiotic fungi consist of two major genetic types. In addition, molecular phylogenetic trees of the symbiotic fungi based on internal transcribed spacer and 18S rDNA suggested that these two types of fungi are different species. We also demonstrated that the fungi comprising the fruiting bodies and fungus combs are identical, and that fungus combs are probably a monoculture within a single termite colony. Our results indicate that horizontal transmission of symbiotic fungi among termite colonies occurred during the evolutionary history of this symbiosis.
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