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Acoustical mimicry in a predatory social parasite of ants

Barbero, F.; Bonelli, S.; Thomas, J.A.; Balletto, E.; Schonrogge, K.. 2009 Acoustical mimicry in a predatory social parasite of ants. Journal of Experimental Biology, 212 (24). 4084-4090. 10.1242/jeb.032912

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Abstract/Summary

Rapid, effective communication between colony members is a key attribute that enables ants to live in dominant, fiercely protected societies. Their signals, however, may be mimicked by other insects that coexist as commensals with ants or interact with them as mutualists or social parasites. We consider the role of acoustics in ant ommunication and its exploitation by social parasites. Social parasitism has been studied mainly in the butterfly genus Maculinea, the final instar larvae of which are hostspecific parasites of Myrmica ants, preying either on ant grubs (predatory Maculinea) or being fed by trophallaxis (cuckoo Maculinea). We found similar significant differences between the stridulations of model queen and worker ant castes in both Myrmica sabuleti and Myrmica scabrinodis to that previously reported for Myrmica schencki. However, the sounds made by queens of all three Myrmica species were indistinguishable, and among workers, stridulations did not differ significantly in two of three species-pairs tested. Sounds recorded from the predatory caterpillars and pupae of Maculinea arion had similar or closer patterns to the acoustics of their host Myrmica sabuleti than those previously reported for the cuckoo Maculinea rebeli and its host Myrmica schencki, even though Maculinea rebeli caterpillars live more intimately with their host. We conclude that chemical mimicry enables Maculinea larvae to be accepted as colony members by worker ants, but that caterpillars and pupae of both predatory and cuckoo butterflies employ acoustical mimicry of queen ant calls to elevate their status towards the highest attainable position within their host’s social hierarchy.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1242/jeb.032912
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 2 - Ecological Processes in the Environment > BD - 2.3 - Identify indicators and traits of ecosystem status ...
CEH Sections: Hails
CEH fellows
ISSN: 0022-0949
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: All journal content is freely available on the journal website without access barriers six months after publication of the relevant issue. This applies to all article types, including Research Articles, Reviews and Editorials
Additional Keywords: Acoustic mimicry, Maculinea, Myrmica, ant social parasites, myrmecophiles
NORA Subject Terms: Zoology
Ecology and Environment
Related URLs:
Date made live: 15 Dec 2009 15:19
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/8656

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