Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (Hypocreales, Ascomycetes) is an entomopathogenic fungus specific to formicine ants (Formicinae, Hymenoptera). Previous works have shown that the carpenter ant Camponotus leonardi acts as the principal host with occasional infections of ants from the genus Polyrhachis (sister genus of Camponotus). Observations were made on the permanent plots of Mo Singto, Khao Yai National Park of Thailand according to which O. unilateralis was found to occur predominantly on three host species: C. leonardi, C. saundersi and P. furcata. Molecular phylogenies of the elongation factor 1-α and β-Tubulin genes indicate a separation of O. unilateralis samples into three clades, reflecting specificity to each of the three different ant species. Samples collected from P. furcata and from C. leonardi were found to form sister groups with samples from C. saundersi forming an outgroup to the latter. Additional samples collected from unidentified ant species of Camponotus and Polyrhachis were positioned as outgroups to those samples on identified species. These results demonstrate that O. unilateralis is clearly not a single phylogenetic species and comprises at least three species that are specific to different host ant species. These cryptic species may arise through recent events of speciation driven by their specificity to host ant species.
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