Current Research
Below is some information about the umbrella research projects which are currently taking place in our laboratory.
Gut symbionts of arthropods: Trichomycetes, also known as gut fungi, are obligate arthropod endosymbionts that grow attached to the lining of the digestive tracts of their hosts. Traditionally, they were thought to be fungi belonging to the Zygomycota, however, using molecular sequence data it was shown that the Eccrinales are not true fungi. Rather, they are more closely related to protists that are part of the basal lineage that gave rise to true fungi and animals (Cafaro 2005). This lineage of protists, variously called DRIPs, Mesomycetozoa and Icthyosporea, was identified relatively recently using molecular data, and included another former member of the Trichomycetes, the Amoebidiales. As an ecological group, the trichomycetes are generally thought to be commensals. However, there is evidence that some may contribute nutrients to their hosts and that others can actually kill their hosts. Our major goal is to understand trichomycetes as an ecological group within a phylogenetic context.

Microbes associated with arthropods: Our laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico–Mayagüez has been collecting and isolating fungi and actinomycetes from diverse tropical arthropods. Several isolates from the tropical ants are waiting to be sequenced, but preliminary results were presented at local meetings. Currently, 18 undergraduate students are following this line of research as part of their course work and testing the efficiency of these isolates to suppress fungal growth in natural populations of ants, termites and beetles.