Endophyte Life Cycle Banner

Endophytes live inside leaves. Leaves get eaten by herbivores. And what happens to the endophytes? Do they survive the herbivore gut? Is there an evolutionary advantage to be eaten? Or would they rather hedge their bets on the ground on a senescing leaf? With the help of Vanessa Chou, an undergraduate research assistant (2015-19), we've been comparing the fungal community inside leaves and caterpillar frass. Our goal is to determine which species survive and may be adapted to herbivory. We will then test to see if they correlate with generalist vs. specialist endophytic lifestyles. We have been testing these in monarch caterpillars and local milkweed species of southern California. Pictured, you see dozens of retired caterpillars who produced many milligrams of frass to this research. No animals were harmed.

Affiliated Researchers

Graduate Student Researcher
Smithsonian Graduate Mentor
NSF Graduate Fellow (2022-2025)