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Ant larval demand reduces aphid colony growth rates in an ant-aphid interaction

Oliver, Tom H.; Leather, Simon R.; Cook, James M.. 2012 Ant larval demand reduces aphid colony growth rates in an ant-aphid interaction. Insects, 3 (1). 120-130. 10.3390/insects3010120

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Abstract/Summary

Ants often form mutualistic interactions with aphids, soliciting honeydew in return for protective services. Under certain circumstances, however, ants will prey upon aphids. In addition, in the presence of ants aphids may increase the quantity or quality of honeydew produced, which is costly. Through these mechanisms, ant attendance can reduce aphid colony growth rates. However, it is unknown whether demand from within the ant colony can affect the ant-aphid interaction. In a factorial experiment, we tested whether the presence of larvae in Lasius niger ant colonies affected the growth rate of Aphis fabae colonies. Other explanatory variables tested were the origin of ant colonies (two separate colonies were used) and previous diet (sugar only or sugar and protein). We found that the presence of larvae in the ant colony significantly reduced the growth rate of aphid colonies. Previous diet and colony origin did not affect aphid colony growth rates. Our results suggest that ant colonies balance the flow of two separate resources from aphid colonies- renewable sugars or a protein-rich meal, depending on demand from ant larvae within the nest. Aphid payoffs from the ant-aphid interaction may change on a seasonal basis, as the demand from larvae within the ant colony waxes and wanes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3390/insects3010120
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 2 - Ecological Processes in the Environment > BD - 2.1 - Interactions ... structure ecosystems and their functioning
CEH Sections: Pywell
ISSN: 2075-4450
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access article - click on the Official URL link for full text
Additional Keywords: context dependency, conditionality, mutualism, ant predation, keystone interaction, Lasius niger, Aphis fabae
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 21 Feb 2012 11:11
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/16835

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