Cooperation and conflict within the fungus-growing ant microbe symbiosis. A) Fungus-growing ants forage for substrate to nourish their cultivated fungus, which they also groom to help remove garden parasites. B) In return, the fungus serves as the primary food source for the ants; with some species producing nutrient-rich hyphal swellings (gongylidia) that the ants preferentially feed on. Cooperation and conflict is inherent to the ant-fungus mutualism (black arrows, head points toward recipient of benefit), with each symbiont receiving a benefit (+), at a cost to the other (-). Natural selection favors symbionts that increase their own fitness selfishly by exploiting their partner, receiving a benefit (+) without paying the cost (-) associated with providing a benefit in return. C) The mutualism is parasitized by specialized fungi in the genus Escovopsis, which acquire nutrients from the fungus garden at a direct and indirect cost to the cultivated fungus and ants, respectively. Cooperation is enforced, and cheaters minimized, because the selfish interests of both ants and cultivated fungus are aligned (orange triangle) against the parasite Escovopsis.