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 communication and its exploitation by social parasites. Social parasitism has been studied mainly in the butterfly genus Maculinea, whose final instar larvae are host-specific 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 display similar or closer patterns in relation to their host Myrmica sabuleti’s acoustics to those previously reported for the cuckoo Maculinea rebeli and its host Myrmica schencki, even though M. 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.

Acoustical mimicry in a predatory social parasite of ants

BARBERO, Francesca;BONELLI, Simona;BALLETTO, Emilio;
2009

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 communication and its exploitation by social parasites. Social parasitism has been studied mainly in the butterfly genus Maculinea, whose final instar larvae are host-specific 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 display similar or closer patterns in relation to their host Myrmica sabuleti’s acoustics to those previously reported for the cuckoo Maculinea rebeli and its host Myrmica schencki, even though M. 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.
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Lycaenidae butterfly; Myrmica ant; Maculinea; Phengaris; acoustic mimicry; stridulation; cuckoo and predatory parasite.
Francesca Barbero; Simona Bonelli; Jeremy A Thomas; Emilio Balletto; Karsten Schönrogge
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/64168
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