Social parasitism represents a particular type of agonistic interaction in which a parasite exploits an entire society instead of a single organism. One fascinating form of social parasitism in ants is the “inquilinism”, in which a typically worker-less parasitic queen coexists with the resident queen in the host colony and produces sexual offspring. To bypass the recognition system of host colonies, inquilines have evolved a repertoire of deceiving strategies. We tested the level of integration of the inquiline Myrmica karavajevi within the host colonies of M. scabrinodis and we investigated the mechanisms of chemical and vibroacoustic deception used by the parasite. M. karavajevi is integrated into the ant colony to such an extent that, in rescue experiments, the parasite pupae were saved prior to the host’s brood. M. karavajevi gynes perfectly imitated the cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of M. scabrinodis queens and the parasite vibroacoustic signals resembled those emitted by the host queens eliciting the same levels of attention in the host workers during playback experiments. Our results suggest that M. karavajevi has evolved ultimate deception strategies to reach the highest social status in the colony hierarchy, encouraging the use of a combined molecular and behavioural approach when studying host–parasite interactions.

The Inquiline Ant Myrmica karavajevi Uses Both Chemical and Vibroacoustic Deception Mechanisms to Integrate into Its Host Colonies

Casacci, Luca Pietro
First
;
Barbero, Francesca
;
Witek, Magdalena
2021-01-01

Abstract

Social parasitism represents a particular type of agonistic interaction in which a parasite exploits an entire society instead of a single organism. One fascinating form of social parasitism in ants is the “inquilinism”, in which a typically worker-less parasitic queen coexists with the resident queen in the host colony and produces sexual offspring. To bypass the recognition system of host colonies, inquilines have evolved a repertoire of deceiving strategies. We tested the level of integration of the inquiline Myrmica karavajevi within the host colonies of M. scabrinodis and we investigated the mechanisms of chemical and vibroacoustic deception used by the parasite. M. karavajevi is integrated into the ant colony to such an extent that, in rescue experiments, the parasite pupae were saved prior to the host’s brood. M. karavajevi gynes perfectly imitated the cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of M. scabrinodis queens and the parasite vibroacoustic signals resembled those emitted by the host queens eliciting the same levels of attention in the host workers during playback experiments. Our results suggest that M. karavajevi has evolved ultimate deception strategies to reach the highest social status in the colony hierarchy, encouraging the use of a combined molecular and behavioural approach when studying host–parasite interactions.
2021
10
7
1
20
https://www.mdpi.com/2079-7737/10/7/654
host–parasite interactions; social parasitism; cuticular hydrocarbons; stridulation; Myrmica ants
Casacci, Luca Pietro; Barbero, Francesca; Ślipiński, Piotr; Witek, Magdalena
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/1814404
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