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Mimetic host shifts in an endangered social parasite of ants

Thomas, Jeremy A.; Elmes, Graham W.; Sielezniew, Marcin; Stankiewicz-Fiedurek, Anna; Simcox, David J.; Settele, Josef; Schonrogge, Karsten. 2013 Mimetic host shifts in an endangered social parasite of ants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280 (1751), 20122336. 8, pp. 10.1098/rspb.2012.2336

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Abstract/Summary

An emerging problem in conservation is whether listed morpho-species with broad distributions, yet specialized lifestyles, consist of more than one cryptic species or functionally distinct forms that have different ecological requirements. We describe extreme regional divergence within an iconic endangered butterfly, whose socially parasitic young stages use non-visual, non-tactile cues to infiltrate and supplant the brood in ant societies. Although indistinguishable morphologically or when using current mitochondrial and nuclear sequence-, or microsatellite data, Maculinea rebeli from Spain and southeast Poland exploit different Myrmica ant species and experience 100 per cent mortality with each other’s hosts. This reflects major differences in the hydrocarbons synthesized from each region by the larvae, which so closely mimic the recognition profiles of their respective hosts that nurse ants afford each parasite a social status above that of their own kin larvae. The two host ants occupy separate niches within grassland; thus, conservation management must differ in each region. Similar cryptic differentiation may be common, yet equally hard to detect, among the approximately 10 000 unstudied morpho-species of social parasite that are estimated to exist, many of which are Red Data Book listed.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1098/rspb.2012.2336
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 2 - Ecological Processes in the Environment > BD - 2.4 - Estimate the impact of the main drivers and pressures on biodiversity ...
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity
CEH Sections: CEH fellows
Hails
ISSN: 0962-8452
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - Official URL link provides full text
Additional Keywords: cryptic species, chemical mimicry, host specificity, butterfly, conservation, Maculinea, Phengaris
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Chemistry
Date made live: 30 Nov 2012 10:34
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/20629

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