Local host ant specificity of Phengaris (Maculinea) teleius butterfly, an obligatory social parasite of Myrmica ants

Witek, Magdalena; Nowicki, Piotr; Sliwinska, Ewa B.; Skorka, Piotr; Settele, Josef; Schonrogge, Karsten; Woyciechowski, Michal. 2010 Local host ant specificity of Phengaris (Maculinea) teleius butterfly, an obligatory social parasite of Myrmica ants. Ecological Entomology, 35. 557-564.

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1. Phengaris butterflies are obligatory social parasites of Myrmica ants. Early research suggested that there is a different Myrmica host species for each of the five European Phengaris social parasites, but more recent studies have shown that this was an oversimplification. 2. The pattern of host ant specificity within a Phengaris teleius metapopulation from southern Poland is reported. A combination of studying the frequency distribution of Phengaris occurrence and morphometrics on adult butterflies were used to test whether use of different host species is reflected in larval development. 3. Phengaris teleius larvae were found to survive in colonies of four Myrmica species: M. scabrinodis, M. rubra, M. ruginodis, and M. rugulosa. Myrmica scabrinodis was the most abundant species under the host plant but the percentage of infested nests was similar to other host ant species at two sites and lower in comparison to nests of M. rubra and M. ruginodis at the other two sites. Morphometric measurements of adult butterflies reared by wild colonies of M. scabrinodis and M. ruginodis showed that wing size and number of wing spots were slightly greater for adults eclosing from nests of M. ruginodis. 4. Our results suggest that P. teleius in the populations studied is less specialised than previously suggested. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that P. teleius is expected to be the least specific of the European Phengaris species, as it has the largest and best defended fourth-instar caterpillars and, as a predatory species, it spends less time in the central larval chambers of the host colonies. The fact that individuals reared by M. ruginodis had wider hind wings may suggest that P. teleius had better access to resources in M. ruginodis than in M. scabrinodis colonies.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
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 ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hails
ISSN: 0307-6946
Additional Keywords: Maculinea, Myrmica ants, myrmecophiles, cryptic lineages, local host specificity, Phengaris, social parasites
NORA Subject Terms: Zoology
Biology and Microbiology
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 28 Sep 2010 10:08 +0 (UTC)

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