Washington, October 3 : Just like humans, Beetles too benefit from 'friendly' associations, say researchers.
University of Wisconsin-Madison expert Cameron Currie says that adult beetles have a specialized compartment in their bodies that they use to store two other organisms: a slow-growing beneficial fungus that serves as a food source, and a bacterium that produces a unique antibiotic.
Before adult female beetles lay eggs in tree bark, says the researcher, they spread the beneficial fungus and bacteria around the area where they will deposit the eggs.
The researcher adds that the antibiotic from the bacteria prevents growth of the fast-growing competitor fungus without harming the slow-growing beneficial fungus, which continues to grow and provide a rich source of nutrition for the developing beetle larvae.
"There are perhaps 10 million species of insects on the planet. So, if insects associate with bacteria like this more generally, then there's potentially a huge number of new places to explore," says Currie, an evolutionary biologist.
Lita Proctor, the program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF), says that this research has important implications for the ecosystems such species occupy.
"It may be that some organisms evolved symbioses (cooperative relationships) as a strategy to give them an advantage over others when competing for resources. These cooperative relationships may be much more common than we thought," said Proctor.
The researchers believe that in-depth study of these interactions may lead to identification of new types of antibiotics or other chemicals that may have agricultural or medicinal uses.
A research article describing the study has been published in the journal Science.