Chevana Dorris, a Biology major from Jackson State University, and Dr. J.P. Schmidt looked at relationships between fungal pathogens and their insect hosts.
Abstract: The USDA-ARS Collection of Entomopathogenic Fungal Cultures (ARSEF) database features nearly 8,000 fungal pathogen-insect host entries. For each fungal entomopathogen and its insect host, the database lists taxonomy and geographic location. Relying on the data from ARSEF, our project explores biases and patterns in relationships between fungal pathogens and their insect hosts. After removing entries in which hosts or pathogens were not resolved to species, we summarized the data on unique host-pathogen pairs by fungal class and insect host order. We ran analyses to create visualizations of the cleaned data. We summarized the number of fungal pathogens per host, the number of hosts per fungal pathogen, and the latitudinal range of pathogens. From these visualizations, we identified a set of biases and patterns in the data. Fungal species that have been investigated for use as biocontrol agents dominated the database and infected many hosts, especially species within the insect classes Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Lepidopotera which include many economically damaging pests. We also found that the database has more fungal pathogens from the more-studied temperate zones as opposed to the tropics where fungi are actually more abundant and fungal richness is greater. Despite clear taxonomic and geographic biases, this large database has potential for exploring patterns in generalism and specialism among well-studied pathogen species.