University of Oulu

Unni Pulliainen Heikki Helanterä Liselotte Sundström Eva Schultner. The possible role of ant larvae in the defence against social parasites. 286. Proc. R. Soc. B.

The possible role of ant larvae in the defence against social parasites

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Author: Pulliainen, Unni1,2; Helanterä, Heikki1,2,3; Sundström, Liselotte1,2;
Organizations: 1Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
2Tvärminne Zoological Station, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
3Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, Finland
4Institut für Zoologie und Evolutionsbiologie, Biologie I, Universität Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 9.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: The Royal Society, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-01-28


Temporary social parasite ant queens initiate new colonies by entering colonies of host species, where they begin laying eggs. As the resident queen can be killed during this process, host colonies may lose their entire future reproductive output. Selection thus favours the evolution of defence mechanisms, before and after parasite intrusion. Most studies on social parasites focus on host worker discrimination of parasite queens and their offspring. However, ant larvae can also influence brood composition by consuming eggs. This raises the question whether host larvae can aid in preventing colony takeover by consuming eggs laid by parasite queens. To test whether larvae could play a role in anti-parasite defence, we compared the rates at which larvae of a common host species, Formica fusca, consumed eggs laid by social parasite, non-parasite, nest-mate, or conspecific non-nest-mate queens. Larvae consumed social parasite eggs more than eggs laid by a heterospecific non-parasite queen, irrespective of the chemical distance between the egg cuticular profiles. Also, larvae consumed eggs laid by conspecific non-nest-mate queens more than those laid by nest-mate queens. Our study suggests that larvae may act as players in colony defence against social parasitism, and that social parasitism is a key factor shaping discrimination behaviour in ants.

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Series: Proceedings of the Royal Society. B, Biological sciences
ISSN: 0962-8452
ISSN-E: 1471-2954
ISSN-L: 0962-8452
Volume: 286
Issue: 1898
Article number: 20182867
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.2867
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: The work was supported by the LUOVA Doctoral Programme (UP), The Academy of Finland (grant numbers 252411, 284666 to the Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions to LS), the Kone Foundation (HH), the University of Helsinki, and the Bayrisches Staatsministerium für Bildung und Kultus, Wissenschaft und Kunst (ES).
Copyright information: © 2019 The Author(s). Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.