Submitted to: Society for Invertebrate Pathology Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 4, 2008
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: As with all great and complex questions, no definitive answers are possible about the evolution of pathogenicity in general (an eternal question for mycologists!), much less about the evolution of fungal specialization to attack and to kill living insects or other arthropods. It does seem certain, however, that the entomopathogenic habit has arisen multiple times among fungi, and possibly even multiple times within specific fungal groups. It is even possible that some general characters shared by nearly all fungal entomopathogens actually might have played a role in their acquiring that nutritional habit. Speculations about the conditions that allowed a large number and diversity of fungi to become associated with some sucking insects (scales, aphids and cicadas in particular) are plausible but ultimately unproveable. And it also seems that such a nutritional habit as entomopathogenicity-and despite any later biological adaptations to arthropod hosts-might be subject to change over time; host switching, even among dramatically different groups of host organisms, may be more common than many might suspect. If life is a banquet, for fungal pathogens it may well be a buffet service in which a preference for any particular food may change and the exploration of new tastes is encouraged.