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Queen ants make distinctive sounds that are mimicked by a butterfly social parasite

Barbero, Francesca; Thomas, Jeremy A.; Bonelli, Simona; Balletto, Emilio; Schonrogge, Karsten. 2009 Queen ants make distinctive sounds that are mimicked by a butterfly social parasite. Science, 373. 782-785. 10.1126/science.1163583

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Abstract/Summary

Ants dominate terrestrial ecosystems through living in complex societies whose organisation is maintained via sophisticated communication systems. The role of acoustics in information exchange may be underestimated. We show that Myrmica schencki queens generate distinctive sounds which elicit increased benevolent responses from workers, reinforcing their supreme social status. Although fiercely defended by workers, ant societies are infiltrated by specialist insects which exploit their resources. Sounds produced by pupae and larvae of the parasitic butterfly Maculinea rebeli mimic those of queen ants more closely than workers, enabling them to achieve high status within ant societies. We conclude that acoustical mimicry provides another route for infiltration for ~10,000 species of social parasites that cheat ant societies.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1126/science.1163583
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biodiversity > BD01 Conservation and Restoration of Biodiversity > BD01.3 Population and community processes
CEH Sections: Hails
ISSN: 0036-8075
Additional Keywords: acoustic communication; social insects, ants, social paraistes, myrmecophiles, social ranking
NORA Subject Terms: Biology and Microbiology
Zoology
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 27 Feb 2009 10:50
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/5291

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