Date of Graduation
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Matthew T Kasson
Brachycybe (Wood) is a genus of fungivorous millipedes. To date, the fungal associates of these millipedes have never been characterized. In an attempt to resolve these relationships, culture-based approaches combined with DNA barcode sequencing were used. Sampling of 313 individuals collected from three of four B. lecontii clades and 20 sites across seven states uncovered at least 183 genera in 40 orders from four fungal phyla. At least seven putative new species were recovered in this study, despite the use of more classical culture-based approaches. Three of these fungi were phylogenetically resolved using ITS + LSU and include two new species, aff. Fonsecaea sp., Mortierella aff. ambigua, and a new genus related to Apophysomyces. Overall, the results of this study highlight the vast amount of undescribed fungal biodiversity associated with millipedes. Twelve fungal genera from nine orders showed high connectivity across the entire B. lecontii -associated fungal network, indicating a central role for these fungi in their association with these millipedes. These twelve include the two putative new species described above. The ecology of these and other fungal associates were also explored, using fungal cohort pairings and entomopathogenicity trials. Over 40% of all fungal pairings resulted in competitive interactions, a majority of which involved inhibition or overgrowth by fungi in the Hypocreales and Polyporales, respectively. The abundance of these competitive interactions in these two orders indicate differing ecological strategies. Hypocreales used chemical warfare to competitively exclude other fungi, while Polyporales physically overgrew their competitors. Mucoromycotan fungi used a similar strategy to the Polyporales. Results of a series of entomopathogenicity trials indicated that B. lecontii was less susceptible to entomopathogenic Hypocreales than an insect model (Galleria mellonella), even though these fungi are known to attack several classes of arthropods. Furthermore, the absence of a negative interaction between B. lecontii and entomopathogenic Hypocreales may indicate a beneficial relationship. When challenged with Polyporales, B. lecontii exhibited high mortality, while G. mellonella was unaffected. This stands in sharp contrast to previous casual observations of the feeding behavior of B. lecontii. Recent discoveries of previously overlooked fungal diversity have been groundbreaking and hint at substantial cryptic fungal biodiversity across the globe. The 200-300 million-year-old association between fungi and the Colobognatha, which includes Brachycybe lecontii, provides an ideal system to uncover biodiversity and examine function of these fungi in a highly understudied and ancient association.
Macias, Angie M., "Diversity and Function of Fungi Associated with the Fungivorous Millipede, Brachycybe lecontii" (2017). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 6132.