Natures wonders: ant colonies allow parasites (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Monday, April 23, 2018, 19:04 (666 days ago) @ David Turell

These ants follow the Arab proverb, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", even if the parasite ants eat some larvae and some of the fungus harvest:

"But new research shows there's likely a useful tradeoff to calmly accepting these parasite ants into the fold: They have weaponry that's effective against their host ants and a more menacing intruder ant.

"Rachelle Adams, an ant expert at The Ohio State University, wanted to better understand the dynamics of the symbiotic relationship between parasitic Megalomyrmex symmetochus ants and Sericomyrmex amabilis hosts.


"Instead, the host/parasite relationship appears to be built on mutual protection from a more fearsome foe, said Adams, an assistant professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology.

"The parasitic ants possess a volatile alkaloid-based venom that the host ants detect from a distance. The parasite ants' potent chemical weaponry is known to work against a more-lethal invader ant.

"'It's likely a scenario where the enemy of your enemy is your friend," she said.

"'When confronted with a parasitic ant, the farmer ant will at first lunge at the intruder, but then instead of biting, she'll pull away and bow her head down, in a submissive response."

"There are more than 250 species of these fungus-farming ants in the United States and in Central and South America, she said. The ants studied in this research live in Panama.

"'These fungus farmers start little farms and care for the fungus garden by feeding it and protecting it from pathogens," Adams said.

"The crops are bountiful – more than what the host colony needs – so when the parasites invade it doesn't cause a tremendous amount of stress to either the fungus or ants, she said.

"And while they do eat some of the ants' protein-rich brood, they don't kill the queen and the host colony remains healthy.

"Going forward, Adams hopes to discover whether or not this parasite-tolerance behavior is transmitted from parent to offspring colonies. Not all Sericomyrmex amabilis colonies live with parasites in their midst. Scientists estimate that about three-quarters of colonies host parasites."

Comment: Seems like a beneficial naturally developed arrangement.

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