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Insect vector - fungal endophytes

Project Full Title:

Insect vector – fungal endophytes: are effects of the interaction dependent on fungal reproductive strategy?

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Project Description:

Flies of the genus Botanophila are unusual in that they visit fungal (Epichloe spp.) fruiting bodies for feeding and oviposition. As they visit fungi, flies transfer spermatial spores among the self-incompatible fungal individuals. Thus, the flies act as “pollinators” of the fungi. Some species of Epichloe appear to require the services of the flies for “pollination” while others do not. Larval flies complete their development on the fungi. The aim of the project is to test the hypothesis that the reproductive mode of the fungus determines the dependence of Epichloe on Botanophila. Activities undertaken by students will comprise the evaluation of: (1) effectiveness of fly ontogenesis and fertility, (2) reproductive success of fungal endophytes and (3) presence of bacterial endosymbionts in the fungus-insect interaction. Research will be conducted both in the field and in a laboratory. Techniques used in the project will range from standard ecological to molecular and histo-cytological methods. Knowledge of the fungal endophyte-fly interaction will contribute to our understanding of evolutionary innovations in the interaction partners that have led to the diversity of life forms within the biosphere. The project is a multi-investigator, multi-national endeavor involving workers and labs from the United States, Switzerland and Poland. Field work will be conducted in Poland, while laboratory work will be conducted there, in Zurich, Switzerland and at Hope College. Students will be involved in laboratory-based work at Hope and/or field work in Poland, thus the student needs to be amenable to international travel.

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