Convergent structure and function of mycelial galleries in two unrelated Neotropical plant-ants

V. E. Mayer, J. Lauth, J. Orivel

The construction process and use of galleries by Azteca brevis (Myrmicinae: Dolichoderinae) inhabiting Tetrathylacium macrophyllum (Salicaceae) were compared with Allomerus decemarticulatus (Myrmicinae: Solenopsidini) galleries on Hirtella physophora (Chrysobalanaceae). Though the two ant species are phylogenetically distant, the gallery structure seems to be surprisingly similar and structurally convergent: both are pierced with numerous holes and both ant species use Chaetothyrialean fungi to strengthen the gallery walls. Al. decemarticulatus is known to use the galleries for prey capture and whether this is also the case for Az. brevis was tested in field experiments. We placed Atta workers as potential prey/threat on the galleries and recorded the behaviour of both ant species. We found considerable behavioural differences between them: Al. decemarticulatus was quicker and more efficient at capture than was Az. brevis. While most Atta workers were captured after the first 5 min by Al. decemarticulatus, significantly fewer were captured by Az. brevis even after 20 min. Moreover, the captured Atta were sometimes simply discarded and not taken to the nest by Az. brevis. As a consequence, the major function of the galleries built by Az. brevis may, therefore, be defense against intruders in contrast to Al. decemarticulatus which uses them mainly for prey capture. This may be due to a higher need for protein in Al. decemarticulatus compared to coccid-raising Az. brevis.

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
External organisation(s)
Univ Paris Diderot, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), CNRS - National Institute for Biology (INSB), UDICE-French Research Universities, Universite de Paris, CNRS, Lab Epigenet & Destin Cellulaire, UMR7216
Insectes Sociaux
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106042 Systematic botany, 106008 Botany, 106012 Evolutionary research
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Insect Science
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