Unexpected benefit of a social parasite for a key fitness component of its ant host

Hovestadt, Thomas; Thomas, Jeremy A.; Mitesser, Oliver; Elmes, Graham W.; Schonrogge, Karsten. 2012 Unexpected benefit of a social parasite for a key fitness component of its ant host. American Naturalist, 179 (1). 110-123.

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Numerous invertebrates inhabit social insect colonies, including the hoverfly genus Microdon, whose larvae typically live as brood predators. Formica lemani ant colonies apparently endure Microdon mutabilis infections over several years, despite losing a considerable fraction of young, and may even produce more gynes. We present a model for resource allocation within polygynous ant colonies, which assumes that whether an ant larva switches development into a worker or a gyne depends on the quantity of food received randomly from workers. Accordingly, Microdon predation promotes gyne development by increasing resource availability for surviving broods. Several model predictions are supported by empirical data. (i) Uninfected colonies seldom produce gynes. (ii) Infected colonies experience a short-lived peak in gyne production leading to a bimodal distribution in gyne production. (iii) Low brood∶worker ratio is the critical mechanism controlling gyne production. (iv) Brood∶worker ratio reduction must be substantial for increased gyne production to become noticeable.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 1 - Observations, Patterns, and Predictions for Biodiversity > BD - 1.4 - Quantify and model interactions to determine impacts ...
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 2 - Ecological Processes in the Environment > BD - 2.2 - Quantify the impact of invasive species, pathogens ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 0003-0147
Additional Keywords: Microdon, Formica, myrmecophily, mutualism, parasitism, colony dynamics, resource allocation
NORA Subject Terms: Zoology
Ecology and Environment
Related URLs:
Date made live: 10 Jan 2012 10:34 +0 (UTC)

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