Fungi and arthropods represent some of the most diverse organisms on our planet, yet the ecological relationships between them remain largely unknown. In animals, fungal growth on body surfaces is often hazardous and is known to cause mortality. In contrast, here we report the presence of an apparently non-harmful mycobiome on the cuticle of whip spiders (Arachnida: Amblypygi). The associations are not species-specific and involve a diversity of fungal species, including cosmopolitan and local decomposers as well as entomopathogens. We discuss the ecology of the detected fungal species and hypothesize that the thick epicuticular secretion coat of whip spiders (the cerotegument) promotes fungal growth. It is possible that this relationship is beneficial towards the host if it leads to parasite control or chemical camouflage. Our findings, which are the first from this arthropod lineage, indicate that non-pathogenic interactions between arthropods and fungi may be much more widespread than predicted and call for more studies in this area.
- Arthropod-fungi relationship