Yeasts in the nests of the leaf-cutter ant Acromyrmex balzani in a Savanna biome: exploitation of community and metabolic diversity
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The leaf-cutter ant Acromyrmex balzani is responsible for causing important losses in reforestation areas, crops, and pastures, and is frequently found in the Brazilian savanna (Cerrado). So far, there is no information regarding the yeast communities that occur in their nests. Here, we evaluated the diversity, composition, and structure of yeast communities in both fungus gardens (FG) and external refuse dump (RD) of this ant species (Palmas, Tocantins, northern Brazil). A total of 720 yeasts were isolated, comprising 52 species distributed in 29 genera. The RDs have significantly richer and more diverse yeast communities than the fungus gardens, regardless of the season and the level of preservation in the area. The isolates produced a wide range of carbon polymer-degrading enzymes and were able to assimilate carbon-sources present in plant materials. We observed a different proportion of enzyme-producers and carbon-assimilation found in external refuse dump and fungus gardens from preserved and disturbed areas, suggesting that this interaction may vary depending on the environmental conditions. A. balzani nests in the savanna biome are a hotspot of yeast species with ecological, clinical, and biotechnological implications.