Fungus-growing ants (Attini: Formicidae) and their fungal cultivars participate in ant-fungus mutualism that share a 50-million-year-old coevolutionary history. Fungal cultures are grown in gardens alongside ants and a diverse collection of microbes that interact with both species in mutualistic, commensal, and antagonistic relationships. These microbes aid in digestion and detoxification of food, provide essential nutrients, help in nest hygiene, and play a dominant role in defense against pathogens and disease. Microbial communities of many model species have been shown to change in a laboratory setting as compared to their natural environment. High-throughput 16s sequencing of the V4 variable region was used to investigate the bacterial diversity of 32 Trachymyrmex arizonensis colonies. Additional changes in colony diversity and structure were analyzed from their initial collection and following 16 weeks of standard laboratory culture. Diversity metrics revealed a shift in the microbial community between each sampling treatment. Approximately 24% (fungal) and 19% (ant) of the variation in distances between fungus and ants collected in the field to those collected in the laboratory was explained by this grouping. Shared taxa between treatments indicated families belonging to Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria to be the main bacterial species shared between the two groups. Indicator species analysis indicated families belonging to Clostridiales, Burkholderiales, and Actinomycetales to be most responsible for driving differences among microbial communities between samples. In addition to the comparative microbiome study, three primers were developed for Pseudonocardia, Amycolatopsis, and Solirubrobacter which make up the core microbiome of T. septentrionalis and T. turrifex.

Date of publication

Summer 8-24-2021

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Katrin Kellner, Jon Seal, Brent Bill, Matthew Greenwold


Master of Science, Biology