The role of fungus in the diet of the leaf-cutting ant Atta cephalotes (L.)
Article first published online: 14 MAR 2008
Volume 4, Issue 2, pages 151–160, May 1979
How to Cite
QUINLAN, R. J. and CHERRETT, J. M. (1979), The role of fungus in the diet of the leaf-cutting ant Atta cephalotes (L.). Ecological Entomology, 4: 151–160. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2311.1979.tb00570.x
- Issue published online: 14 MAR 2008
- Article first published online: 14 MAR 2008
- Revision received 22 November 1978
Abstract. 1. The workers and queen of the leaf-cutting ant Atta cephalotes fed on the juice of swollen hyphae (staphylae) produced by their cultivated fungus, but neither obtained sufficient energy from this source for their respiratory needs. The number of staphylae eaten by workers increased with worker size but was not enough to satisfy their energy requirements.
2. Larvae fed on whole staphylae and staphylae previously chewed by workers, and obtained sufficient energy from this source for respiration and growth. No evidence of feeding on fungus hyphae or of trophallaxis between worker and larvae was found. Larvae preferred staphylae to hyphae when fed them artificially and they gained more weight on the former.
3. Worker ants imbibed plant sap during the preparation of plant material for the fungus garden and the uptake of carbohydrate during this process was sufficient to supply their energy needs for approximately 24 h.
4. Staphylae were richer in lipid and carbohydrate, and poorer in protein than ant fungal hyphae.
5. The number of staphylae produced by the fungus gardens of two small nests was comparable with the observed consumption rate but would provide only about 4% of the nest's respiratory requirements.
6. In the light of these findings, a revised view of the role of the fungus in the diet of the ant is discussed.