Fungal hyperparasites have been known to indirectly impact ecosystem composition and disease dynamics by modulating the population size and transmission of their parasite host. In the present study we formally describe two new hyperparasite species that infect the fungus Ophiocordyceps camponoti-floridani, which manipulates the behavior of the Florida carpenter ant. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that both fungal hyperparasites are new, distinct species. The unique morphology and phylogenetic placement of one of the species even supports its placement in a new genus, which we have named Niveomyces. Our field data suggests that both new species, Polycephalomyces oviedoensis and Niveomyces ophiocordycipitis, negatively impact O. camponoti-floridani survival and transmission. This field data, along with the macromorphology of both species, also suggests that these hyperparasites are exclusively mycoparasites and do not infect, nor decompose O. camponoti-floridani's ant host. Additionally, we sequenced and annotated the genomes of the two new species to perform a comparative genomics study in an attempt to find genomic signatures of their mycoparasitic lifestyle. However, our comparative analyses, which included genomes of other mycoparasites, animal pathogens, saprophytes, and phytopathogens, suggests that previously reported mycoparasite genome signatures are not greatly informative when expanding the number of genomes and lifestyles. This highlights the need for additional mycoparasite genomes within the order Hypocreales to find meaningful mycoparasite genome signatures. Taken together, this integrative study contributes new knowledge to the limited literature on fungal hyperparasites and emphasizes the need for more research on tri-trophic systems.
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De Bekker, Charissa
Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Lebert, Brittany, "Masters of the Manipulator? A Species Description and Comparative Genomics Study of Two New Hyperparasites of the Zombie Ant Fungus" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 808.