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Sample records for leaf-cutting ants atta

  1. Yeasts found on an ephemeral reproductive caste of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa.

    PubMed

    Arcuri, Silvio Lovato; Pagnocca, Fernando Carlos; Melo, Weilan Gomes da Paixão; Nagamoto, Nilson Satoru; Komura, Dirce Leimi; Rodrigues, Andre

    2014-09-01

    Winged males of leaf-cutting ants are considered an ephemeral reproductive caste only produced before the mating flight season. Although much is known about the yeast diversity found in fungus gardens of attine ants, no study has focused on the yeasts associated with males of leaf-cutting ants. Here, we surveyed the yeasts on the integuments of males of Atta sexdens rubropilosa and assessed their potential role in the attine ant-microbe symbiosis. Using culture-dependent techniques, we found yeasts to be abundant on the integuments of males (54.5 %, n = 200 alates). A total of 242 yeast strains were obtained representing six orders, ten genera and 25 species. Strains of Aureobasidium, Cryptococcus, Hannaella and Rhodotorula were prevalent on the integuments and likely originated from the fungus garden of the parental nest or from the soil. The majority of strains (87.1 %) produced at least one of the evaluated enzymes: pectinase, polygalacturonase, cellulase, xylanase, ligninases and lipase. Aureobasidium pullulans accounted for the highest number of strains that produced all enzymes. In addition, yeasts showed the ability to assimilate the resulting oligosaccharides, supporting observations of other studies that yeasts may be involved in the plant biomass metabolism in the fungus gardens. Because winged males harbor several yeasts with putative functional roles, these fungi may take part and be beneficial in the microbial consortia of the new incipient nest. PMID:25012689

  2. Mortality rates and division of labor in the leaf-cutting ant, Atta colombica

    PubMed Central

    Brown, Mark J F.; Bot, A N M.; Hart, Adam G.

    2006-01-01

    Division of labor in social groups is affected by the relative costs and benefits of conducting different tasks. However, most studies have examined the dynamics of division of labor, rather than the costs and benefits that presumably underlie the evolution of such systems. In social insects, division of labor may be simplistically described as a source-sink system, with external tasks, such as foraging, acting as sinks for the work force. The implications of two distinct sinks – foraging and waste-heap working – for division of labor were examined in the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica. Intrinsic mortality rates were similar across external task groups. Exposure to waste (a task-related environment) led to a 60% increase in the mortality rate of waste-heap workers compared to workers not exposed to waste. Given the small number of workers present in the waste-heap task group, such increases in mortality are unlikely to affect division of labor and task allocation dramatically, except perhaps under conditions of stress. PMID:19537995

  3. Distinct antennal lobe phenotypes in the leaf-cutting ant (Atta vollenweideri).

    PubMed

    Kuebler, L S; Kelber, C; Kleineidam, C J

    2010-02-01

    Leaf-cutting ants (Atta vollenweideri) express a remarkable size polymorphism across the two sexual castes (queens and males) but in particular within the worker caste. Worker size is related to behavior (alloethism), separating workers into behavioral subcastes. The neuronal mechanisms underlying differences in behavior within the worker caste are still unknown. In this study, we first compared selected neuropils, in particular, the antennal lobes (AL) in males, queens, and workers. The males' ALs contain three extremely large, sex-specific glomeruli (macroglomeruli; MGs) and in total comprise fewer glomeruli (242) than the ALs of queens (about 346 glomeruli). In contrast to males, the queen ALs contain only one large glomerulus at a lateral position. The largest number of glomeruli was found in workers (396-442). In a previous paper, we described an MG in the workers' AL, and, in the second part of this study, we show that within workers two distinct, size-related AL phenotypes exist: the MG phenotype (containing a macroglomerulus) and the RG phenotype, with all glomeruli of regular size. This neuroanatomical polyphenism is established during pupal development and separates the worker caste into two neuroanatomical subcastes. Third, we investigate the functional significance of the MG in workers. By using calcium imaging to monitor activity of AL projection neurons, we show that the releaser component of the trail pheromone is represented in the same region as the MG. We propose that phenotypic trait variation in the organization of the ALs leads to differences in odor information processing that finally result in size-related differences in trail-following behavior. PMID:19950119

  4. Somatic incompatibility and genetic structure of fungal crops in sympatric Atta colombica and Acromyrmex echinatior leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    Kooij, Pepijn W.; Poulsen, Michael; Schiøtt, Morten; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2015-01-01

    Obligate mutualistic symbioses rely on mechanisms that secure host-symbiont commitments to maximize host benefits and prevent symbiont cheating. Previous studies showed that somatic incompatibilities correlate with neutral-marker-based genetic distances between fungal symbionts of Panamanian Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants, but the extent to which this relationship applies more generally remained unclear. Here we showed that genetic distances accurately predicted somatic incompatibility for Acromyrmex echinatior symbionts irrespective of whether neutral microsatellites or AFLP markers were used, but that such correlations were weaker or absent in sympatric Atta colombica colonies. Further analysis showed that the symbiont clades maintained by A. echinatior and A. colombica were likely to represent separate gene pools, so that neutral markers were unlikely to be similarly correlated with incompatibility loci that have experienced different selection regimes. We suggest that evolutionarily derived claustral colony founding by Atta queens may have removed selection for strong incompatibility in Atta fungi, as this condition makes the likelihood of symbiont swaps much lower than in Acromyrmex, where incipient nests stay open because queens have to forage until the first workers emerge. PMID:26865859

  5. Antimicrobial activities of components of the glandular secretions of leaf cutting ants of the genus Atta.

    PubMed

    Mendonça, Adriana de Lima; da Silva, Carlos Eduardo; de Mesquita, Fernando Lucas Torres; Campos, Rousseau da Silva; Do Nascimento, Ruth R; Ximenes, Eulália Camelo Pessoa de Azevedo; Sant'Ana, Antônio Euzébio G

    2009-05-01

    The secretions of the mandibular and metapleural glands of leaf cutting ants contain antimicrobial substances that protect the mutualistic fungal colony within the nest from attack by parasitic micro-organisms. The major constituents of these secretions (citral, 4-methyl-3-heptanol, 2-heptanone, 3-octanone, 4-methyl-2-heptanone, beta-citronellol, geraniol, phenylacetic, indolacetic, hexanoic and octanoic acids were tested against resistant strains of the human pathogens, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. Assays were carried out using filter paper discs impregnated with either hexane or water solutions of the analytes in the concentration range 250-6,000 ng/microl. Although most of the tested compounds presented strong antibacterial and antifungal activities, citral, geraniol, 4-methyl-3-heptanol, hexanoic and octanoic acids were the most effective, particularly against C. albicans. The results suggest that these compounds may be of potential value as antibiotics in the treatment of human candidiasis. PMID:19214771

  6. Expressed sequence tags from Atta laevigata and identification of candidate genes for the control of pest leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    2011-01-01

    Background Leafcutters are the highest evolved within Neotropical ants in the tribe Attini and model systems for studying caste formation, labor division and symbiosis with microorganisms. Some species of leafcutters are agricultural pests controlled by chemicals which affect other animals and accumulate in the environment. Aiming to provide genetic basis for the study of leafcutters and for the development of more specific and environmentally friendly methods for the control of pest leafcutters, we generated expressed sequence tag data from Atta laevigata, one of the pest ants with broad geographic distribution in South America. Results The analysis of the expressed sequence tags allowed us to characterize 2,006 unique sequences in Atta laevigata. Sixteen of these genes had a high number of transcripts and are likely positively selected for high level of gene expression, being responsible for three basic biological functions: energy conservation through redox reactions in mitochondria; cytoskeleton and muscle structuring; regulation of gene expression and metabolism. Based on leafcutters lifestyle and reports of genes involved in key processes of other social insects, we identified 146 sequences potential targets for controlling pest leafcutters. The targets are responsible for antixenobiosis, development and longevity, immunity, resistance to pathogens, pheromone function, cell signaling, behavior, polysaccharide metabolism and arginine kynase activity. Conclusion The generation and analysis of expressed sequence tags from Atta laevigata have provided important genetic basis for future studies on the biology of leaf-cutting ants and may contribute to the development of a more specific and environmentally friendly method for the control of agricultural pest leafcutters. PMID:21682882

  7. Ultrastructure and physiology of the CO2 sensitive sensillum ampullaceum in the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens.

    PubMed

    Kleineidam, C; Romani, R; Tautz, J; Isidoro, N

    2000-01-01

    The sensilla ampullacea on the apical antennomere of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens were investigated regarding both their responses to CO2 and their ultrastructure. By staining the sensillum during recording, we confirmed that the sensilla ampullacea are responsible for CO2 perception. We showed that the sensory neurons of the sensilla ampullacea are continuously active without adaptation during stimulation with CO2 (test duration: 1 h). This feature should enable ants to assess the absolute CO2 concentration inside their nests. Sensilla ampullacea have been found grouped mainly on the dorso-lateral side of the distal antennal segment. Scanning and transmission electron microscopic investigations revealed that the external pore opens into a chamber which connects to the ampulla via a cuticular duct. We propose protection against evaporation as a possible function of the duct. The ampulla houses a peg which is almost as long as the ampulla and shows cuticular ridges on the external wall. The ridges are separated by furrows with cuticular pores. The peg is innervated by only one sensory neuron with a large soma. Its outer dendritic segment is enveloped by a dendritic sheath up to the middle of the peg. From the middle to the tip numerous dendritic branches (up to 100) completely fill the distal half of the peg. This is the first report of a receptor cell with highly branched dendrites and which probably is tuned to CO2 exclusively. PMID:18088913

  8. Do Leaf Cutting Ants Cut Undetected? Testing the Effect of Ant-Induced Plant Defences on Foraging Decisions in Atta colombica

    PubMed Central

    Kost, Christian; Tremmel, Martin; Wirth, Rainer

    2011-01-01

    Leaf-cutting ants (LCAs) are polyphagous, yet highly selective herbivores. The factors that govern their selection of food plants, however, remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that the induction of anti-herbivore defences by attacked food plants, which are toxic to either ants or their mutualistic fungus, should significantly affect the ants' foraging behaviour. To test this “induced defence hypothesis,” we used lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus), a plant that emits many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) upon herbivore attack with known anti-fungal or ant-repellent effects. Our results provide three important insights into the foraging ecology of LCAs. First, leaf-cutting by Atta ants can induce plant defences: Lima bean plants that were repeatedly exposed to foraging workers of Atta colombica over a period of three days emitted significantly more VOCs than undamaged control plants. Second, the level to which a plant has induced its anti-herbivore defences can affect the LCAs' foraging behaviour: In dual choice bioassays, foragers discriminated control plants from plants that have been damaged mechanically or by LCAs 24 h ago. In contrast, strong induction levels of plants after treatment with the plant hormone jasmonic acid or three days of LCA feeding strongly repelled LCA foragers relative to undamaged control plants. Third, the LCA-specific mode of damaging leaves allows them to remove larger quantities of leaf material before being recognized by the plant: While leaf loss of approximately 15% due to a chewing herbivore (coccinelid beetle) was sufficient to significantly increase VOC emission levels after 24 h, the removal of even 20% of a plant's leaf area within 20 min by LCAs did not affect its VOC emission rate after 24 h. Taken together, our results support the “induced defence hypothesis” and provide first empirical evidence that the foraging behaviour of LCAs is affected by the induction of plant defence responses. PMID:21799831

  9. Queen influence on workers behavior of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa (Forel, 1908).

    PubMed

    Sousa-Souto, L; Souza, D J

    2006-05-01

    In an ant colony, the queen is the single reproducer and can interact with her workers via pheromones and cuticular compounds. However, in most species queen importance is not restricted to reproduction: in the initial development of the colony, her presence might play a more important role. In this work, we studied the effects of queen absence on workers behavior displayed in the foraging arena. Ants mortality and refuse accumulation was also measured daily. The results showed that queen absence did not alter either workers behavior or foraging efficiency. However, we observed increased ant mortality accompanied by a decrease in refuse dumping outside the nest. These results corroborate the hypothesis that environmental factors are more important than intrinsical factors in the allocation of external tasks. Probably, the queen could only influence internal activities of the colony. PMID:16862305

  10. Leaf processing behaviour in Atta leafcutter ants: 90% of leaf cutting takes place inside the nest, and ants select pieces that require less cutting.

    PubMed

    Garrett, Ryan W; Carlson, Katherine A; Goggans, Matthew Scott; Nesson, Michael H; Shepard, Christopher A; Schofield, Robert M S

    2016-01-01

    Leafcutter ants cut trimmings from plants, carry them to their underground nests and cut them into smaller pieces before inoculating them with a fungus that serves as a primary food source for the colony. Cutting is energetically costly, so the amount of cutting is important in understanding foraging energetics. Estimates of the cutting density, metres of cutting per square metre of leaf, were made from samples of transported leaf cuttings and of fungal substrate from field colonies of Atta cephalotes and Atta colombica. To investigate cutting inside the nest, we made leaf-processing observations of our laboratory colony, A. cephalotes. We did not observe the commonly reported reduction of the leaf fragments into a pulp, which would greatly increase the energy cost of processing. Video clips of processing behaviours, including behaviours that have not previously been described, are linked. An estimated 2.9 (±0.3) km of cutting with mandibles was required to reduce a square metre of leaf to fungal substrate. Only about 12% (±1%) of this cutting took place outside of the nest. The cutting density and energy cost is lower for leaf material with higher ratios of perimeter to area, so we tested for, and found that the laboratory ants had a preference for leaves that were pre-cut into smaller pieces. Estimates suggest that the energy required to transport and cut up the leaf material is comparable to the metabolic energy available from the fungus grown on the leaves, and so conservation of energy is likely to be a particularly strong selective pressure for leafcutter ants. PMID:26909161

  11. Leaf processing behaviour in Atta leafcutter ants: 90% of leaf cutting takes place inside the nest, and ants select pieces that require less cutting

    PubMed Central

    Garrett, Ryan W.; Carlson, Katherine A.; Goggans, Matthew Scott; Nesson, Michael H.; Shepard, Christopher A.; Schofield, Robert M. S.

    2016-01-01

    Leafcutter ants cut trimmings from plants, carry them to their underground nests and cut them into smaller pieces before inoculating them with a fungus that serves as a primary food source for the colony. Cutting is energetically costly, so the amount of cutting is important in understanding foraging energetics. Estimates of the cutting density, metres of cutting per square metre of leaf, were made from samples of transported leaf cuttings and of fungal substrate from field colonies of Atta cephalotes and Atta colombica. To investigate cutting inside the nest, we made leaf-processing observations of our laboratory colony, A. cephalotes. We did not observe the commonly reported reduction of the leaf fragments into a pulp, which would greatly increase the energy cost of processing. Video clips of processing behaviours, including behaviours that have not previously been described, are linked. An estimated 2.9 (±0.3) km of cutting with mandibles was required to reduce a square metre of leaf to fungal substrate. Only about 12% (±1%) of this cutting took place outside of the nest. The cutting density and energy cost is lower for leaf material with higher ratios of perimeter to area, so we tested for, and found that the laboratory ants had a preference for leaves that were pre-cut into smaller pieces. Estimates suggest that the energy required to transport and cut up the leaf material is comparable to the metabolic energy available from the fungus grown on the leaves, and so conservation of energy is likely to be a particularly strong selective pressure for leafcutter ants. PMID:26909161

  12. Comparative morpho-physiology of the metapleural glands of two Atta leaf-cutting ant queens nesting in clayish and organic soils.

    PubMed

    Vieira, Alexsandro Santana; Camargo-Mathias, Maria Izabel; Roces, Flavio

    2015-09-01

    Queens of leaf-cutting ants found their nests singly, each consisting of a vertical tunnel and a final horizontal chamber. Because of the claustral mode of nest founding, the queen and/or her initial fungus garden are exposed to threats imposed by several soil pathogens, and the antibiotic secretions produced by their metapleural glands are considered a main adaptation to deal with them. Nests of two Atta leaf-cutting ant species, Atta vollenweideri and Atta sexdens rubropilosa, occur in different soil types, alfisols and oxisols. Their queens are known to excavate the initial nest in different soil horizons, clayish and organic, respectively, which differ in their fertility and associated microbiota. The aim of the present study was to comparatively investigate the morpho-physiology of the metapleural glands in queens of A. vollenweideri and A. sexdens rubropilosa, addressing the question whether the distinct selective pressure imposed by the microbiota in the two different soil types led to morpho-physiological differences in the metapleural glands that were consistent with their antiseptic function. The results revealed that metapleural glands of A. sexdens rubropilosa have a larger number of secretory cells, and consequently a higher production of antibiotic secretions, which may have been selected to allow nest founding at the superficial horizon of oxisols rich in organic matter and microorganisms. Glands of A. vollenweideri, on the contrary, presented fewer secretory cells, suggesting less production of antibiotic secretions. We argue that the excavation of deep founding nests in A. vollenweideri was primarily selected for during evolution to avoid the risk posed by flooding, and further hypothesize that a reduced number of cells in their metapleural glands occurred because of a weak pathogen-driven selective pressure at the preferred soil depth. PMID:26145506

  13. Spatially Heterogeneous Nest-Clearing Behavior Coincides with Rain Event in the Leaf-Cutting Ant Atta cephalotes (L.) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Stephan, J G; Wirth, R; Leal, I R; Meyer, S T

    2015-04-01

    Leaf-cutting ants of the genus Atta construct the probably largest nests among ants and are ecosystem engineers because they alter light and nutrient availability at nest sites. Besides creating canopy gaps in the forest, workers remove all vegetation from atop their nest mounds. Here, we examined the extent and spatial distribution of this nest-clearing behavior by transplanting Licania tomentosa seedlings on Atta cephalotes (Linnaeus) nest mounds in the Atlantic forest in northeast Brazil and documented defoliation patterns by the workers. Within 9 days, workers removed around 53% of the total leaf area planted per colony. All colonies showed a synchronized start of defoliation after a rain event in the fifth night after the seedlings had been transplanted. Defoliation increased with time elapsed since transplanting and with the number of entrances surrounding each seedling. In addition, workers started defoliation on the top of the mound. In contrast, the distance to the next entrance and the size of the seedling did not affect the defoliation pattern. Defoliation was not part of the colony foraging activities but was identified as an element of nest maintenance. Possible cues triggering nest-clearing behavior and the potential link between nest-clearing activities and the control of microclimate of ant nests are discussed. PMID:26013129

  14. Caste-specific expression patterns of immune response and chemosensory related genes in the leaf-cutting ant, Atta vollenweideri.

    PubMed

    Koch, Sarah I; Groh, Katrin; Vogel, Heiko; Hansson, Bill S; Hannson, Bill S; Kleineidam, Christoph J; Grosse-Wilde, Ewald

    2013-01-01

    Leaf-cutting ants are evolutionary derived social insects with elaborated division of labor and tremendous colony sizes with millions of workers. Their social organization is mainly based on olfactory communication using different pheromones and is promoted by a pronounced size-polymorphism of workers that perform different tasks within the colony. The size polymorphism and associated behaviors are correlated to distinct antennal lobe (AL) phenotypes. Two worker phenotypes differ in number of olfactory glomeruli in the AL and the presence or absence of an extremely large glomerulus (macroglomerulus), involved in trail-pheromone reception. The males' AL contains three macroglomeruli which are presumably involved in detection of sex-pheromone components. We investigated the antennal transcriptome data of all major castes (males, queens and workers) and two worker subcastes (large and tiny workers). In order to identify putative odorant receptor genes involved in pheromone detection, we identified differentially expressed odorant receptor genes (OR-genes) using custom microarrays. In total, we found 185 OR-gene fragments that are clearly related to ORs and we identified orthologs for 70 OR-genes. Among them one OR-gene differs in relative expression between the two worker subcastes by a factor of >3 and thus is a very promising candidate gene for the trail-pheromone receptor. Using the relative expression of OR-genes in males versus queens, we identified 2 candidates for sex-pheromone receptor genes in males. In addition, we identified genes from all other chemosensory related gene families (13 chemosensory protein genes, 8 odorant binding protein genes, 2 sensory-neuron membrane protein genes, 7 ionotropic receptor genes, 2 gustatory receptor genes), and we found ant-specific expansions in the chemosensory protein gene family. In addition, a large number of genes involved in immune defense exhibited differential expression across the three different castes, and some

  15. Caste-Specific Expression Patterns of Immune Response and Chemosensory Related Genes in the Leaf-Cutting Ant, Atta vollenweideri

    PubMed Central

    Koch, Sarah I.; Groh, Katrin; Vogel, Heiko; Hannson, Bill S.; Kleineidam, Christoph J.; Grosse-Wilde, Ewald

    2013-01-01

    Leaf-cutting ants are evolutionary derived social insects with elaborated division of labor and tremendous colony sizes with millions of workers. Their social organization is mainly based on olfactory communication using different pheromones and is promoted by a pronounced size-polymorphism of workers that perform different tasks within the colony. The size polymorphism and associated behaviors are correlated to distinct antennal lobe (AL) phenotypes. Two worker phenotypes differ in number of olfactory glomeruli in the AL and the presence or absence of an extremely large glomerulus (macroglomerulus), involved in trail-pheromone reception. The males' AL contains three macroglomeruli which are presumably involved in detection of sex-pheromone components. We investigated the antennal transcriptome data of all major castes (males, queens and workers) and two worker subcastes (large and tiny workers). In order to identify putative odorant receptor genes involved in pheromone detection, we identified differentially expressed odorant receptor genes (OR-genes) using custom microarrays. In total, we found 185 OR-gene fragments that are clearly related to ORs and we identified orthologs for 70 OR-genes. Among them one OR-gene differs in relative expression between the two worker subcastes by a factor of >3 and thus is a very promising candidate gene for the trail-pheromone receptor. Using the relative expression of OR-genes in males versus queens, we identified 2 candidates for sex-pheromone receptor genes in males. In addition, we identified genes from all other chemosensory related gene families (13 chemosensory protein genes, 8 odorant binding protein genes, 2 sensory-neuron membrane protein genes, 7 ionotropic receptor genes, 2 gustatory receptor genes), and we found ant-specific expansions in the chemosensory protein gene family. In addition, a large number of genes involved in immune defense exhibited differential expression across the three different castes, and some

  16. Chemical and behavioural studies of the trail-following pheromone in the leaf-cutting ant Atta opaciceps, Borgmeier (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Campos, Rousseau da Silva; Mendonça, Adriana de Lima; Cabral, Cyro Rêgo; Vaníčková, Lucie; Do Nascimento, Ruth Rufino

    2016-03-01

    To understand the significance of the trail pheromone used in chemical communication of the leaf-cutting ants Atta opaciceps we investigated, under laboratory conditions, the trail-following behaviour of different castes. We observed a clear behavioural discrimination of conspecific venom gland extract of foraging ants from those of other species. Additionally, we determined the pheromone composition of A. opaciceps venom gland secretion using a two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. Chemical analyses revealed the presence of three nitrogen-containing compounds, identified as 2,5-dimethylpyrazine, 3-ethyl-2,5-dimethylpyrazine and methyl 4-methylpyrrole-2-carboxylate (M4MPC). Four different bioassays performed with workers from different castes of A. opaciceps suggested that the trail pheromone elicits the trail-following behaviour in conspecifics of all castes, but the foragers respond more strongly to their own pheromone than to that of other castes (gardeners, generalists and soldiers). In addition, A. opaciceps foragers follow the trails made with the venom gland extracts of the unrelated Acromyrmex subterraneus subterraneus foragers as well as they follow the trails made with their own venom gland extract. M4MPC was identified to be the most abundant and the most behaviourally active component of the venom gland extract of A. opaciceps foragers. PMID:26718582

  17. Soil Moisture and Excavation Behaviour in the Chaco Leaf-Cutting Ant (Atta vollenweideri): Digging Performance and Prevention of Water Inflow into the Nest

    PubMed Central

    Pielström, Steffen; Roces, Flavio

    2014-01-01

    The Chaco leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri is native to the clay-heavy soils of the Gran Chaco region in South America. Because of seasonal floods, colonies are regularly exposed to varying moisture across the soil profile, a factor that not only strongly influences workers' digging performance during nest building, but also determines the suitability of the soil for the rearing of the colony's symbiotic fungus. In this study, we investigated the effects of varying soil moisture on behaviours associated with underground nest building in A. vollenweideri. This was done in a series of laboratory experiments using standardised, plastic clay-water mixtures with gravimetric water contents ranging from relatively brittle material to mixtures close to the liquid limit. Our experiments showed that preference and group-level digging rate increased with increasing water content, but then dropped considerably for extremely moist materials. The production of vibrational recruitment signals during digging showed, on the contrary, a slightly negative linear correlation with soil moisture. Workers formed and carried clay pellets at higher rates in moist clay, even at the highest water content tested. Hence, their weak preference and low group-level excavation rate observed for that mixture cannot be explained by any inability to work with the material. More likely, extremely high moistures may indicate locations unsuitable for nest building. To test this hypothesis, we simulated a situation in which workers excavated an upward tunnel below accumulated surface water. The ants stopped digging about 12 mm below the interface soil/water, a behaviour representing a possible adaptation to the threat of water inflow field colonies are exposed to while digging under seasonally flooded soils. Possible roles of soil water in the temporal and spatial pattern of nest growth are discussed. PMID:24748382

  18. Plants use macronutrients accumulated in leaf-cutting ant nests

    PubMed Central

    da S.L Sternberg, Leonel; Pinzon, Maria Camila; Moreira, Marcelo Z; Moutinho, Paulo; Rojas, Enith I; Herre, Edward Allen

    2006-01-01

    Leaf-cutting ants (Atta spp.) are known for their extensive defoliation in neo-tropical forests and savannahs. Debate about the costs and benefits of their activities has been largely dominated by their detrimental effects on agriculture and agroforestry. However, the large accumulation of nutrients and changes in soil properties near their nests might benefit plants growing near them. Here, we test whether trees use nutrients that accumulate in debris piles near, or refuse chambers within, leaf-cutting ant nests. At two tropical sites (a moist tropical forest site in Panama and a savannah site in Brazil), we fed leaves labelled with the stable isotope 15N to two species of leaf-cutting ants (Atta colombica and Atta laevigata) and traced the stable isotope label in plants surrounding the two nests. Thus, we show that plants in both sites access resources associated with Atta nests. In addition, leaf tissue of trees near the nests labelled with 15N had significantly higher calcium concentrations than those of distal, unlabelled conspecifics. It has been documented that calcium is a limiting macronutrient in tropical forests and savannahs. Atta may thus play an important ecological role through their long-distance transport, redistribution and concentration of critical macronutrients. PMID:17164194

  19. Endophytic fungi reduce leaf-cutting ant damage to seedlings

    PubMed Central

    Bittleston, L. S.; Brockmann, F.; Wcislo, W.; Van Bael, S. A.

    2011-01-01

    Our study examines how the mutualism between Atta colombica leaf-cutting ants and their cultivated fungus is influenced by the presence of diverse foliar endophytic fungi (endophytes) at high densities in tropical leaf tissues. We conducted laboratory choice trials in which ant colonies chose between Cordia alliodora seedlings with high (Ehigh) or low (Elow) densities of endophytes. The Ehigh seedlings contained 5.5 times higher endophyte content and a greater diversity of fungal morphospecies than the Elow treatment, and endophyte content was not correlated with leaf toughness or thickness. Leaf-cutting ants cut over 2.5 times the leaf area from Elow relative to Ehigh seedlings and had a tendency to recruit more ants to Elow plants. Our findings suggest that leaf-cutting ants may incur costs from cutting and processing leaves with high endophyte loads, which could impact Neotropical forests by causing variable damage rates within plant communities. PMID:20610420

  20. A colony-level response to disease control in a leaf-cutting ant

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Hart, Adam; Bot, A. N. M.; Brown, Mark

    2002-03-01

    Parasites and pathogens often impose significant costs on their hosts. This is particularly true for social organisms, where the genetic structure of groups and the accumulation of contaminated waste facilitate disease transmission. In response, hosts have evolved many mechanisms of defence against parasites. Here we present evidence that Atta colombica, a leaf-cutting ant, may combat Escovopsis, a dangerous parasite of Atta's garden fungus, through a colony-level behavioural response. In A. colombica, garden waste is removed from within the colony and transported to the midden - an external waste dump - where it is processed by a group of midden workers. We found that colonies infected with Escovopsis have higher numbers of workers on the midden, where Escovopsis is deposited. Further, midden workers are highly effective in dispersing newly deposited waste away from the dumping site. Thus, the colony-level task allocation strategies of the Atta superorganism may change in response to the threat of disease to a third, essential party.

  1. Differences in Forage-Acquisition and Fungal Enzyme Activity Contribute to Niche Segregation in Panamanian Leaf-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Kooij, Pepijn W.; Liberti, Joanito; Giampoudakis, Konstantinos; Schiøtt, Morten; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2014-01-01

    The genera Atta and Acromyrmex are often grouped as leaf-cutting ants for pest management assessments and ecological surveys, although their mature colony sizes and foraging niches may differ substantially. Few studies have addressed such interspecific differences at the same site, which prompted us to conduct a comparative study across six sympatric leaf-cutting ant species in Central Panama. We show that foraging rates during the transition between dry and wet season differ about 60 fold between genera, but are relatively constant across species within genera. These differences appear to match overall differences in colony size, especially when Atta workers that return to their nests without leaves are assumed to carry liquid food. We confirm that Panamanian Atta specialize primarily on tree-leaves whereas Acromyrmex focus on collecting flowers and herbal leaves and that species within genera are similar in these overall foraging strategies. Species within genera tended to be spaced out over the three habitat categories that we distinguished (forest, forest edge, open grassland), but each of these habitats normally had only a single predominant Atta and Acromyrmex species. We measured activities of twelve fungus garden decomposition enzymes, belonging to the amylases, cellulases, hemicellulases, pectinases and proteinases, and show that average enzyme activity per unit of fungal mass in Atta gardens is lower than in Acromyrmex gardens. Expression profiles of fungal enzymes in Atta also appeared to be more specialized than in Acromyrmex, possibly reflecting variation in forage material. Our results suggest that species- and genus-level identities of leaf-cutting ants and habitat-specific foraging profiles may give predictable differences in the expression of fungal genes coding for decomposition enzymes. PMID:24718261

  2. Differences in forage-acquisition and fungal enzyme activity contribute to niche segregation in Panamanian leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Kooij, Pepijn W; Liberti, Joanito; Giampoudakis, Konstantinos; Schiøtt, Morten; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2014-01-01

    The genera Atta and Acromyrmex are often grouped as leaf-cutting ants for pest management assessments and ecological surveys, although their mature colony sizes and foraging niches may differ substantially. Few studies have addressed such interspecific differences at the same site, which prompted us to conduct a comparative study across six sympatric leaf-cutting ant species in Central Panama. We show that foraging rates during the transition between dry and wet season differ about 60 fold between genera, but are relatively constant across species within genera. These differences appear to match overall differences in colony size, especially when Atta workers that return to their nests without leaves are assumed to carry liquid food. We confirm that Panamanian Atta specialize primarily on tree-leaves whereas Acromyrmex focus on collecting flowers and herbal leaves and that species within genera are similar in these overall foraging strategies. Species within genera tended to be spaced out over the three habitat categories that we distinguished (forest, forest edge, open grassland), but each of these habitats normally had only a single predominant Atta and Acromyrmex species. We measured activities of twelve fungus garden decomposition enzymes, belonging to the amylases, cellulases, hemicellulases, pectinases and proteinases, and show that average enzyme activity per unit of fungal mass in Atta gardens is lower than in Acromyrmex gardens. Expression profiles of fungal enzymes in Atta also appeared to be more specialized than in Acromyrmex, possibly reflecting variation in forage material. Our results suggest that species- and genus-level identities of leaf-cutting ants and habitat-specific foraging profiles may give predictable differences in the expression of fungal genes coding for decomposition enzymes. PMID:24718261

  3. Allometric scaling of foraging rate with trail dimensions in leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    Bruce, Andrew I.; Burd, Martin

    2012-01-01

    Leaf-cutting ants (Atta spp.) create physical pathways to support the transport of resources on which colony growth and reproduction depend. We determined the scaling relationship between the rate of resource acquisition and the size of the trail system and foraging workforce for 18 colonies of Atta colombica and Atta cephalotes. We examined conventional power-law scaling patterns, but did so in a multivariate analysis that reveals the simultaneous effects of forager number, trail length and trail width. Foraging rate (number of resource-laden ants returning to the nest per unit time) scaled at the 0.93 power of worker numbers, the –1.02 power of total trail length and the 0.65 power of trail width. These scaling exponents indicate that individual performance declines only slightly as more foragers are recruited to the workforce, but that trail length imposes a severe penalty on the foraging rate. A model of mass traffic flow predicts the allometric patterns for workforce and trail length, although the effect of trail width is unexpected and points to the importance of the little-known mechanisms that regulate a colony's investment in trail clearance. These results provide a point of comparison for the role that resource flows may play in allometric scaling patterns in other transport-dependent entities, such as human cities. PMID:22337696

  4. A colony-level response to disease control in a leaf-cutting ant.

    PubMed

    Hart, Adam G; Bot, A N M; Brown, Mark J F

    2002-06-01

    Parasites and pathogens often impose significant costs on their hosts. This is particularly true for social organisms, where the genetic structure of groups and the accumulation of contaminated waste facilitate disease transmission. In response, hosts have evolved many mechanisms of defence against parasites. Here we present evidence that Atta colombica, a leaf-cutting ant, may combat Escovopsis, a dangerous parasite of Atta's garden fungus, through a colony-level behavioural response. In A. colombica, garden waste is removed from within the colony and transported to the midden--an external waste dump--where it is processed by a group of midden workers. We found that colonies infected with Escovopsis have higher numbers of workers on the midden, where Escovopsis is deposited. Further, midden workers are highly effective in dispersing newly deposited waste away from the dumping site. Thus, the colony-level task allocation strategies of the Atta superorganism may change in response to the threat of disease to a third, essential party. PMID:12146794

  5. Contact rate modulates foraging efficiency in leaf cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    Bouchebti, S.; Ferrere, S.; Vittori, K.; Latil, G.; Dussutour, A.; Fourcassié, V.

    2015-01-01

    Lane segregation is rarely observed in animals that move in bidirectional flows. Consequently, these animals generally experience a high rate of head-on collisions during their journeys. Although these collisions have a cost (each collision induces a delay resulting in a decrease of individual speed), they could also have a benefit by promoting information transfer between individuals. Here we explore the impact of head-on collisions in leaf-cutting ants moving on foraging trails by artificially decreasing the rate of head-on collisions between individuals. We show that head-on collisions do not influence the rate of recruitment in these ants but do influence foraging efficiency, i.e. the proportion of ants returning to the nest with a leaf fragment. Surprisingly, both unladen and laden ants returning to the nest participate in the modulation of foraging efficiency: foraging efficiency decreases when the rate of contacts with both nestbound laden or unladen ants decreases. These results suggest that outgoing ants are able to collect information from inbound ants even when these latter do not carry any leaf fragment and that this information can influence their foraging decisions when reaching the end of the trail. PMID:26686557

  6. Contact rate modulates foraging efficiency in leaf cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Bouchebti, S; Ferrere, S; Vittori, K; Latil, G; Dussutour, A; Fourcassié, V

    2015-01-01

    Lane segregation is rarely observed in animals that move in bidirectional flows. Consequently, these animals generally experience a high rate of head-on collisions during their journeys. Although these collisions have a cost (each collision induces a delay resulting in a decrease of individual speed), they could also have a benefit by promoting information transfer between individuals. Here we explore the impact of head-on collisions in leaf-cutting ants moving on foraging trails by artificially decreasing the rate of head-on collisions between individuals. We show that head-on collisions do not influence the rate of recruitment in these ants but do influence foraging efficiency, i.e. the proportion of ants returning to the nest with a leaf fragment. Surprisingly, both unladen and laden ants returning to the nest participate in the modulation of foraging efficiency: foraging efficiency decreases when the rate of contacts with both nestbound laden or unladen ants decreases. These results suggest that outgoing ants are able to collect information from inbound ants even when these latter do not carry any leaf fragment and that this information can influence their foraging decisions when reaching the end of the trail. PMID:26686557

  7. Generation of Nutrients and Detoxification: Possible Roles of Yeasts in Leaf-Cutting Ant Nests

    PubMed Central

    Mendes, Thais D.; Rodrigues, André; Dayo-Owoyemi, Ifeloju; Marson, Fernando A. L.; Pagnocca, Fernando C.

    2012-01-01

    The possible roles played by yeasts in attine ant nests are mostly unknown. Here we present our investigations on the plant polysaccharide degradation profile of 82 yeasts isolated from fungus gardens of Atta and Acromyrmex species to demonstrate that yeasts found in ant nests may play the role of making nutrients readily available throughout the garden and detoxification of compounds that may be deleterious to the ants and their fungal cultivar. Among the yeasts screened, 65% exhibited cellulolytic enzymes, 44% exhibited pectinolytic activity while 27% and 17% possess enzyme systems for the degradation of protease and amylase, respectively. Galacturonic acid, which had been reported in previous work to be poorly assimilated by the ant fungus and also to have a negative effect on ants’ survival, was assimilated by 64% and 79% of yeasts isolated from nests of A. texana and Acromyrmex respectively. Our results suggest that yeasts found in ant nests may participate in generation of nutrients and removal of potentially toxic compounds, thereby contributing to the stability of the complex microbiota found in the leaf-cutting ant nests. PMID:26467957

  8. Functional role of phenylacetic acid from metapleural gland secretions in controlling fungal pathogens in evolutionarily derived leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    Fernández-Marín, Hermógenes; Nash, David R.; Higginbotham, Sarah; Estrada, Catalina; van Zweden, Jelle S.; d'Ettorre, Patrizia; Wcislo, William T.; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2015-01-01

    Fungus-farming ant colonies vary four to five orders of magnitude in size. They employ compounds from actinomycete bacteria and exocrine glands as antimicrobial agents. Atta colonies have millions of ants and are particularly relevant for understanding hygienic strategies as they have abandoned their ancestors' prime dependence on antibiotic-based biological control in favour of using metapleural gland (MG) chemical secretions. Atta MGs are unique in synthesizing large quantities of phenylacetic acid (PAA), a known but little investigated antimicrobial agent. We show that particularly the smallest workers greatly reduce germination rates of Escovopsis and Metarhizium spores after actively applying PAA to experimental infection targets in garden fragments and transferring the spores to the ants' infrabuccal cavities. In vitro assays further indicated that Escovopsis strains isolated from evolutionarily derived leaf-cutting ants are less sensitive to PAA than strains from phylogenetically more basal fungus-farming ants, consistent with the dynamics of an evolutionary arms race between virulence and control for Escovopsis, but not Metarhizium. Atta ants form larger colonies with more extreme caste differentiation relative to other attines, in societies characterized by an almost complete absence of reproductive conflicts. We hypothesize that these changes are associated with unique evolutionary innovations in chemical pest management that appear robust against selection pressure for resistance by specialized mycopathogens. PMID:25925100

  9. Functional role of phenylacetic acid from metapleural gland secretions in controlling fungal pathogens in evolutionarily derived leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Fernández-Marín, Hermógenes; Nash, David R; Higginbotham, Sarah; Estrada, Catalina; van Zweden, Jelle S; d'Ettorre, Patrizia; Wcislo, William T; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2015-05-22

    Fungus-farming ant colonies vary four to five orders of magnitude in size. They employ compounds from actinomycete bacteria and exocrine glands as antimicrobial agents. Atta colonies have millions of ants and are particularly relevant for understanding hygienic strategies as they have abandoned their ancestors' prime dependence on antibiotic-based biological control in favour of using metapleural gland (MG) chemical secretions. Atta MGs are unique in synthesizing large quantities of phenylacetic acid (PAA), a known but little investigated antimicrobial agent. We show that particularly the smallest workers greatly reduce germination rates of Escovopsis and Metarhizium spores after actively applying PAA to experimental infection targets in garden fragments and transferring the spores to the ants' infrabuccal cavities. In vitro assays further indicated that Escovopsis strains isolated from evolutionarily derived leaf-cutting ants are less sensitive to PAA than strains from phylogenetically more basal fungus-farming ants, consistent with the dynamics of an evolutionary arms race between virulence and control for Escovopsis, but not Metarhizium. Atta ants form larger colonies with more extreme caste differentiation relative to other attines, in societies characterized by an almost complete absence of reproductive conflicts. We hypothesize that these changes are associated with unique evolutionary innovations in chemical pest management that appear robust against selection pressure for resistance by specialized mycopathogens. PMID:25925100

  10. A macroglomerulus in the antennal lobe of leaf-cutting ant workers and its possible functional significance.

    PubMed

    Kleineidam, C J; Obermayer, M; Halbich, W; Rössler, W

    2005-06-01

    Ants have a well-developed olfactory system, and pheromone communication is essential for regulating social life within their colonies. We compared the organization of primary olfactory centers (antennal lobes, ALs) in the brain of two closely related species of leaf-cutting ants (Atta vollenweideri, Atta sexdens). Both species express a striking size polymorphism associated with polyethism. We discovered that the ALs of large workers contain a substantially enlarged glomerulus (macroglomerulus, MG) at the entrance of the antennal nerve. This is the first description of an MG in non-sexual individuals of an insect. The location of the MG is laterally reversed in the two species, and workers of different size express a disproportional allometry of glomerular volumes. While ALs of large workers contain an MG, glomeruli in small workers are all similar in size. We further compared electroantennogram (EAG) responses to two common trail pheromone components of leaf-cutting ants: 4-methylpyrrol-2-carboxylate and 2-ethyl-3,6-dimethylpyrazine. At high concentrations the ratio of the EAG signals to 2-ethyl-3,6-dimethylpyrazine versus 4-methylpyrrol-2-carboxylate was significantly smaller in A. vollenweideri compared with the ratio of EAG signals to the same two components in A. sexdens. The differences in EAG signals and the species specific MG location in large workers provide correlative evidence that the MG may be involved in the detection of the trail pheromone. PMID:15843501

  11. Variation in nestmate recognition ability among polymorphic leaf-cutting ant workers.

    PubMed

    Larsen, Janni; Fouks, Bertrand; Bos, Nick; d'Ettorre, Patrizia; Nehring, Volker

    2014-11-01

    A key feature for the success of social insects is division of labour, allowing colony members to specialize on different tasks. Nest defence is a defining task for social insects since it is crucial for colony integrity. A particularly impressive and well-known case of worker specialization in complex hymenopteran societies is found in leaf-cutting ants of the genera Atta and Acromyrmex. We hypothesized that three morphological worker castes of Acromyrmex echinatior differ in their likelihood to attack intruders, and show that major workers are more aggressive towards non-nestmate workers than medium and minor workers. Moreover, minors do not discriminate between nestmate and non-nestmate brood, while larger workers do. We further show that A. echinatior ants use cuticular chemical compounds for nestmate recognition. We took advantage of the natural variation in the cuticular compounds between colonies to investigate the proximate factors that may have led to the observed caste differences in aggression. We infer that major workers differ from medium workers in their general propensity to attack intruders (the "action component" of the nestmate recognition system), while minors seem to be less sensitive to foreign odours ("perception component"). Our results highlight the importance of proximate mechanisms underlying social insect behaviour, and encourage an appreciation of intra-colony variation when analysing colony-level traits such as nest defence. PMID:25205477

  12. Prevalence of the genus Cladosporium on the integument of leaf-cutting ants characterized by 454 pyrosequencing.

    PubMed

    Duarte, A P M; Ferro, M; Rodrigues, A; Bacci, M; Nagamoto, N S; Forti, L C; Pagnocca, F C

    2016-09-01

    The relationship of attine ants with their mutualistic fungus and other microorganisms has been studied during the last two centuries. However, previous studies about the diversity of fungi in the ants' microenvironment are based mostly on culture-dependent approaches, lacking a broad characterization of the fungal ant-associated community. Here, we analysed the fungal diversity found on the integument of Atta capiguara and Atta laevigata alate ants using 454 pyrosequencing. We obtained 35,453 ITS reads grouped into 99 molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs). Data analysis revealed that A. capiguara drones had the highest diversity of MOTUs. Besides the occurrence of several uncultured fungi, the mycobiota analysis revealed that the most abundant taxa were the Cladosporium-complex, Cryptococcus laurentii and Epicoccum sp. Taxa in the genus Cladosporium were predominant in all samples, comprising 67.9 % of all reads. The remarkable presence of the genus Cladosporium on the integument of leaf-cutting ants alates from distinct ant species suggests that this fungus is favored in this microenvironment. PMID:27307255

  13. The Postpharyngeal Gland: Specialized Organ for Lipid Nutrition in Leaf-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Decio, Pâmela; Vieira, Alexsandro Santana; Dias, Nathalia Baptista; Palma, Mario Sergio; Bueno, Odair Correa

    2016-01-01

    There are several hypotheses about the possible functions of the postpharyngeal gland (PPG) in ants. The proposed functions include roles as cephalic or gastric caeca and diverticulum of the digestive tract, mixing of hydrocarbons, nestmate recognition, feeding larvae, and the accumulation of lipids inside this gland, whose origin is contradictory. The current study aimed to investigate the functions of these glands by examining the protein expression profile of the PPGs of Atta sexdens rubropilosa (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Mated females received lipid supplementation and their glands were extracted and analyzed using a proteomic approach. The protocol used combined two-dimensional electrophoresis and shotgun strategies, followed by mass spectrometry. We also detected lipid β-oxidation by immunofluorescent marking of acyl-CoA dehydrogenase. Supplying ants with lipids elicited responses in the glandular cells of the PPG; these included increased expression of proteins related to defense mechanisms and signal transduction and reorganization of the cytoskeleton due to cell expansion. In addition, some proteins in PPG were overexpressed, especially those involved in lipid and energy metabolism. Part of the lipids may be reduced, used for the synthesis of fatty alcohol, transported to the hemolymph, or may be used as substrate for the synthesis of acetyl-CoA, which is oxidized to form molecules that drive oxidative phosphorylation and produce energy for cellular metabolic processes. These findings suggest that this organ is specialized for lipid nutrition of adult leaf-cutting ants and characterized like a of diverticulum foregut, with the ability to absorb, store, metabolize, and mobilize lipids to the hemolymph. However, we do not rule out that the PPG may have other functions in other species of ants. PMID:27149618

  14. The Postpharyngeal Gland: Specialized Organ for Lipid Nutrition in Leaf-Cutting Ants.

    PubMed

    Decio, Pâmela; Vieira, Alexsandro Santana; Dias, Nathalia Baptista; Palma, Mario Sergio; Bueno, Odair Correa

    2016-01-01

    There are several hypotheses about the possible functions of the postpharyngeal gland (PPG) in ants. The proposed functions include roles as cephalic or gastric caeca and diverticulum of the digestive tract, mixing of hydrocarbons, nestmate recognition, feeding larvae, and the accumulation of lipids inside this gland, whose origin is contradictory. The current study aimed to investigate the functions of these glands by examining the protein expression profile of the PPGs of Atta sexdens rubropilosa (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Mated females received lipid supplementation and their glands were extracted and analyzed using a proteomic approach. The protocol used combined two-dimensional electrophoresis and shotgun strategies, followed by mass spectrometry. We also detected lipid β-oxidation by immunofluorescent marking of acyl-CoA dehydrogenase. Supplying ants with lipids elicited responses in the glandular cells of the PPG; these included increased expression of proteins related to defense mechanisms and signal transduction and reorganization of the cytoskeleton due to cell expansion. In addition, some proteins in PPG were overexpressed, especially those involved in lipid and energy metabolism. Part of the lipids may be reduced, used for the synthesis of fatty alcohol, transported to the hemolymph, or may be used as substrate for the synthesis of acetyl-CoA, which is oxidized to form molecules that drive oxidative phosphorylation and produce energy for cellular metabolic processes. These findings suggest that this organ is specialized for lipid nutrition of adult leaf-cutting ants and characterized like a of diverticulum foregut, with the ability to absorb, store, metabolize, and mobilize lipids to the hemolymph. However, we do not rule out that the PPG may have other functions in other species of ants. PMID:27149618

  15. Random amplified polymorphic DNA markers reveal genetic variation in the symbiotic fungus of leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Doherty, Katherine R; Zweifel, Erica W; Elde, Nels C; McKone, Mark J; Zweifel, Stephan G

    2003-01-01

    RAPD markers were used to examine the degree of genetic variation within the putatively asexual basidiomycete fungus (Lepiotaceae: provisionally named Leucoagaricus gongylophorus) associated with the leaf-cutting ant species Atta cephalotes. We analyzed fungal isolates from ant nests in two geographically distant sites, two isolates from Panama and five isolates from Trinidad. Ten decamer primers were used to amplify total DNA from these seven fungal isolates, and RAPD banding patterns were compared. Genetic similarity among isolates was determined by pair-wise comparisons of the shared number of DNA bands on an agarose gel. There was considerable genetic variation among isolates of the symbiotic fungus even within sites. Pairs of fungal isolates from the two different sites shared an average of only 36% of the bands in their RAPD profiles, while pairs from the within sites shared an average of 72% of the bands. RAPD markers may be useful for further investigation of the genetic structure of the fungal symbiont within species of leaf-cutting ants. PMID:21156584

  16. Laccase detoxification mediates the nutritional alliance between leaf-cutting ants and fungus-garden symbionts

    PubMed Central

    De Fine Licht, Henrik H.; Schiøtt, Morten; Rogowska-Wrzesinska, Adelina; Nygaard, Sanne; Roepstorff, Peter; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2013-01-01

    Leaf-cutting ants combine large-scale herbivory with fungus farming to sustain advanced societies. Their stratified colonies are major evolutionary achievements and serious agricultural pests, but the crucial adaptations that allowed this mutualism to become the prime herbivorous component of neotropical ecosystems has remained elusive. Here we show how coevolutionary adaptation of a specific enzyme in the fungal symbiont has helped leaf-cutting ants overcome plant defensive phenolic compounds. We identify nine putative laccase-coding genes in the fungal genome of Leucocoprinus gongylophorus cultivated by the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior. One of these laccases (LgLcc1) is highly expressed in the specialized hyphal tips (gongylidia) that the ants preferentially eat, and we confirm that these ingested laccase molecules pass through the ant guts and remain active when defecated on the leaf pulp that the ants add to their gardens. This accurate deposition ensures that laccase activity is highest where new leaf material enters the fungus garden, but where fungal mycelium is too sparse to produce extracellular enzymes in sufficient quantities to detoxify phenolic compounds. Phylogenetic analysis of LgLcc1 ortholog sequences from symbiotic and free-living fungi revealed significant positive selection in the ancestral lineage that gave rise to the gongylidia-producing symbionts of leaf-cutting ants and their non–leaf-cutting ant sister group. Our results are consistent with fungal preadaptation and subsequent modification of a particular laccase enzyme for the detoxification of secondary plant compounds during the transition to active herbivory in the ancestor of leaf-cutting ants between 8 and 12 Mya. PMID:23267060

  17. The Dynamics of Plant Cell-Wall Polysaccharide Decomposition in Leaf-Cutting Ant Fungus Gardens

    PubMed Central

    Harholt, Jesper; Willats, William G. T.; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2011-01-01

    The degradation of live plant biomass in fungus gardens of leaf-cutting ants is poorly characterised but fundamental for understanding the mutual advantages and efficiency of this obligate nutritional symbiosis. Controversies about the extent to which the garden-symbiont Leucocoprinus gongylophorus degrades cellulose have hampered our understanding of the selection forces that induced large scale herbivory and of the ensuing ecological footprint of these ants. Here we use a recently established technique, based on polysaccharide microarrays probed with antibodies and carbohydrate binding modules, to map the occurrence of cell wall polymers in consecutive sections of the fungus garden of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior. We show that pectin, xyloglucan and some xylan epitopes are degraded, whereas more highly substituted xylan and cellulose epitopes remain as residuals in the waste material that the ants remove from their fungus garden. These results demonstrate that biomass entering leaf-cutting ant fungus gardens is only partially utilized and explain why disproportionally large amounts of plant material are needed to sustain colony growth. They also explain why substantial communities of microbial and invertebrate symbionts have evolved associations with the dump material from leaf-cutting ant nests, to exploit decomposition niches that the ant garden-fungus does not utilize. Our approach thus provides detailed insight into the nutritional benefits and shortcomings associated with fungus-farming in ants. PMID:21423735

  18. Leaf endophyte load and fungal garden development in leaf-cutting ants

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Previous work has shown that leaf-cutting ants prefer to cut leaf material that is relatively low in fungal endophyte content. Such a preference suggests that fungal endophytes exact a cost on the ants or on the development of their colonies. We hypothesized that endophytes may play a role in thei...

  19. Regulation and specificity of antifungal metapleural gland secretion in leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    Yek, Sze Huei; Nash, David R.; Jensen, Annette B.; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2012-01-01

    Ants have paired metapleural glands (MGs) to produce secretions for prophylactic hygiene. These exocrine glands are particularly well developed in leaf-cutting ants, but whether the ants can actively regulate MG secretion is unknown. In a set of controlled experiments using conidia of five fungi, we show that the ants adjust the amount of MG secretion to the virulence of the fungus with which they are infected. We further applied fixed volumes of MG secretion of ants challenged with constant conidia doses to agar mats of the same fungal species. This showed that inhibition halos were significantly larger for ants challenged with virulent and mild pathogens/weeds than for controls and Escovopsis-challenged ants. We conclude that the MG defence system of leaf-cutting ants has characteristics reminiscent of an additional cuticular immune system, with specific and non-specific components, of which some are constitutive and others induced. PMID:22915672

  20. A pest is a pest is a pest? The dilemma of neotropical leaf-cutting ants: Keystone taxa of natural ecosystems

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Fowler, Harold G.; Pagani, Maria Inez; da Silva, Osvaldo Aulino; Forti, Luis Carlos; da Silva, Virgilio Pereira; de Vasconcelos, Heraldo Luis

    1989-11-01

    Leaf-cutting ants of the genera Acromyrmex and Atta are considered the principal polyphagous pests of the Neotropics Although some members of these genera are of economic importance, have a broad geographic distribution, and are extremely good colonizers, others are endemic and closely interact with native ecosystems. Control is generally practiced against any colony, irrespective of its taxonomic status. Indiscriminate control coupled with habitat destruction threatens endemic species with extinction, and, through habitat simplification, favors other pest species. As nests of Atta are large, having several square meters of nest surface, the endemic taxa can be easily used as environmental indicators for natural ecosystems Likewise, the pest species can be used to detect environmental disturbance As these ants are keystone species and easily identified by nonspecialists, efforts should be made to integrate these into viable conservation programs

  1. Leaf-cutting ant fungi produce cell wall degrading pectinase complexes reminiscent of phytopathogenic fungi

    PubMed Central

    2010-01-01

    Background Leaf-cutting (attine) ants use their own fecal material to manure fungus gardens, which consist of leaf material overgrown by hyphal threads of the basidiomycete fungus Leucocoprinus gongylophorus that lives in symbiosis with the ants. Previous studies have suggested that the fecal droplets contain proteins that are produced by the fungal symbiont to pass unharmed through the digestive system of the ants, so they can enhance new fungus garden growth. Results We tested this hypothesis by using proteomics methods to determine the gene sequences of fecal proteins in Acromyrmex echinatior leaf-cutting ants. Seven (21%) of the 33 identified proteins were pectinolytic enzymes that originated from the fungal symbiont and which were still active in the fecal droplets produced by the ants. We show that these enzymes are found in the fecal material only when the ants had access to fungus garden food, and we used quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis to show that the expression of six of these enzyme genes was substantially upregulated in the fungal gongylidia. These unique structures serve as food for the ants and are produced only by the evolutionarily advanced garden symbionts of higher attine ants, but not by the fungi reared by the basal lineages of this ant clade. Conclusions Pectinolytic enzymes produced in the gongylidia of the fungal symbiont are ingested but not digested by Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants so that they end up in the fecal fluid and become mixed with new garden substrate. Substantial quantities of pectinolytic enzymes are typically found in pathogenic fungi that attack live plant tissue, where they are known to breach the cell walls to allow the fungal mycelium access to the cell contents. As the leaf-cutting ant symbionts are derived from fungal clades that decompose dead plant material, our results suggest that their pectinolytic enzymes represent secondarily evolved adaptations that are convergent to those normally found in

  2. Shared Escovopsis parasites between leaf-cutting and non-leaf-cutting ants in the higher attine fungus-growing ant symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Meirelles, Lucas A; Solomon, Scott E; Bacci, Mauricio; Wright, April M; Mueller, Ulrich G; Rodrigues, Andre

    2015-09-01

    Fungus-gardening (attine) ants grow fungus for food in protected gardens, which contain beneficial, auxiliary microbes, but also microbes harmful to gardens. Among these potentially pathogenic microorganisms, the most consistently isolated are fungi in the genus Escovopsis, which are thought to co-evolve with ants and their cultivar in a tripartite model. To test clade-to-clade correspondence between Escovopsis and ants in the higher attine symbiosis (including leaf-cutting and non-leaf-cutting ants), we amassed a geographically comprehensive collection of Escovopsis from Mexico to southern Brazil, and reconstructed the corresponding Escovopsis phylogeny. Contrary to previous analyses reporting phylogenetic divergence between Escovopsis from leafcutters and Trachymyrmex ants (non-leafcutter), we found no evidence for such specialization; rather, gardens from leafcutters and non-leafcutters genera can sometimes be infected by closely related strains of Escovopsis, suggesting switches at higher phylogenetic levels than previously reported within the higher attine symbiosis. Analyses identified rare Escovopsis strains that might represent biogeographically restricted endemic species. Phylogenetic patterns correspond to morphological variation of vesicle type (hyphal structures supporting spore-bearing cells), separating Escovopsis with phylogenetically derived cylindrical vesicles from ancestral Escovopsis with globose vesicles. The new phylogenetic insights provide an improved basis for future taxonomic and ecological studies of Escovopsis. PMID:26473050

  3. Shared Escovopsis parasites between leaf-cutting and non-leaf-cutting ants in the higher attine fungus-growing ant symbiosis

    PubMed Central

    Meirelles, Lucas A.; Solomon, Scott E.; Bacci, Mauricio; Wright, April M.; Mueller, Ulrich G.; Rodrigues, Andre

    2015-01-01

    Fungus-gardening (attine) ants grow fungus for food in protected gardens, which contain beneficial, auxiliary microbes, but also microbes harmful to gardens. Among these potentially pathogenic microorganisms, the most consistently isolated are fungi in the genus Escovopsis, which are thought to co-evolve with ants and their cultivar in a tripartite model. To test clade-to-clade correspondence between Escovopsis and ants in the higher attine symbiosis (including leaf-cutting and non-leaf-cutting ants), we amassed a geographically comprehensive collection of Escovopsis from Mexico to southern Brazil, and reconstructed the corresponding Escovopsis phylogeny. Contrary to previous analyses reporting phylogenetic divergence between Escovopsis from leafcutters and Trachymyrmex ants (non-leafcutter), we found no evidence for such specialization; rather, gardens from leafcutters and non-leafcutters genera can sometimes be infected by closely related strains of Escovopsis, suggesting switches at higher phylogenetic levels than previously reported within the higher attine symbiosis. Analyses identified rare Escovopsis strains that might represent biogeographically restricted endemic species. Phylogenetic patterns correspond to morphological variation of vesicle type (hyphal structures supporting spore-bearing cells), separating Escovopsis with phylogenetically derived cylindrical vesicles from ancestral Escovopsis with globose vesicles. The new phylogenetic insights provide an improved basis for future taxonomic and ecological studies of Escovopsis. PMID:26473050

  4. Sequential soil transport and its influence on the spatial organisation of collective digging in leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Pielström, Steffen; Roces, Flavio

    2013-01-01

    The Chaco leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri (Forel) inhabits large and deep subterranean nests composed of a large number of fungus and refuse chambers. The ants dispose of the excavated soil by forming small pellets that are carried to the surface. For ants in general, the organisation of underground soil transport during nest building remains completely unknown. In the laboratory, we investigated how soil pellets are formed and transported, and whether their occurrence influences the spatial organisation of collective digging. Similar to leaf transport, we discovered size matching between soil pellet mass and carrier mass. Workers observed while digging excavated pellets at a rate of 26 per hour. Each excavator deposited its pellets in an individual cluster, independently of the preferred deposition sites of other excavators. Soil pellets were transported sequentially over 2 m, and the transport involved up to 12 workers belonging to three functionally distinct groups: excavators, several short-distance carriers that dropped the collected pellets after a few centimetres, and long-distance, last carriers that reached the final deposition site. When initiating a new excavation, the proportion of long-distance carriers increased from 18% to 45% within the first five hours, and remained unchanged over more than 20 hours. Accumulated, freshly-excavated pellets significantly influenced the workers' decision where to start digging in a choice experiment. Thus, pellets temporarily accumulated as a result of their sequential transport provide cues that spatially organise collective nest excavation. PMID:23457648

  5. Sequential Soil Transport and Its Influence on the Spatial Organisation of Collective Digging in Leaf-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Pielström, Steffen; Roces, Flavio

    2013-01-01

    The Chaco leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri (Forel) inhabits large and deep subterranean nests composed of a large number of fungus and refuse chambers. The ants dispose of the excavated soil by forming small pellets that are carried to the surface. For ants in general, the organisation of underground soil transport during nest building remains completely unknown. In the laboratory, we investigated how soil pellets are formed and transported, and whether their occurrence influences the spatial organisation of collective digging. Similar to leaf transport, we discovered size matching between soil pellet mass and carrier mass. Workers observed while digging excavated pellets at a rate of 26 per hour. Each excavator deposited its pellets in an individual cluster, independently of the preferred deposition sites of other excavators. Soil pellets were transported sequentially over 2 m, and the transport involved up to 12 workers belonging to three functionally distinct groups: excavators, several short-distance carriers that dropped the collected pellets after a few centimetres, and long-distance, last carriers that reached the final deposition site. When initiating a new excavation, the proportion of long-distance carriers increased from 18% to 45% within the first five hours, and remained unchanged over more than 20 hours. Accumulated, freshly-excavated pellets significantly influenced the workers' decision where to start digging in a choice experiment. Thus, pellets temporarily accumulated as a result of their sequential transport provide cues that spatially organise collective nest excavation. PMID:23457648

  6. Correlation between virulence and genetic structure of Escovopsis strains from leaf-cutting ant colonies in Costa Rica.

    PubMed

    Wallace, Diego E Elizondo; Asensio, Juan G Vargas; Tomás, Adrián A Pinto

    2014-08-01

    Leaf-cutting ants (genera Atta and Acromyrmex) cultivate a specialized fungus for food in underground chambers employing cut plant material as substrate. Parasitism occurs in this agricultural system and plays an important role in colony fitness. The microfungi Escovopsis, a specialized mycoparasite of the fungal cultivar, is highly prevalent among colonies. In this study, we tested the antagonistic activity of several Escovopsis strains from different geographical areas in Costa Rica. We employed a combination of laboratory tests to evaluate virulence, including pure culture challenges, toxicity to fungus garden pieces and subcolony bioassays. We also performed a phylogenetic analysis of these strains in order to correlate their virulence with the genetic structure of this population. The bioassays yielded results consistent between each other and showed significant differences in antagonistic activity among the parasites evaluated. However, no significant differences were found when comparing the results of the bioassays according to the source of the ants' fungal cultivar. The phylogenetic analyses were consistent with these results: whilst the fungal cultivar phylogeny showed a single clade with limited molecular variation, the Escovopsis phylogeny yielded several clades with the most virulent isolates grouping in the same well-supported clade. These results indicate that there are Escovopsis strains better suited to establish their antagonistic effect, whilst the genetic homogeneity of the fungal cultivars limits their ability to modulate Escovopsis antagonism. These findings should be taken into consideration when evaluating the potential of Escovopsis isolates as biocontrol agents for this important agricultural pest in the Neotropics. PMID:24836623

  7. Chemical basis of the synergism and antagonism in microbial communities in the nests of leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Schoenian, Ilka; Spiteller, Michael; Ghaste, Manoj; Wirth, Rainer; Herz, Hubert; Spiteller, Dieter

    2011-02-01

    Leaf-cutting ants cultivate the fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, which serves as a major food source. This symbiosis is threatened by microbial pathogens that can severely infect L. gongylophorus. Microbial symbionts of leaf-cutting ants, mainly Pseudonocardia and Streptomyces, support the ants in defending their fungus gardens against infections by supplying antimicrobial and antifungal compounds. The ecological role of microorganisms in the nests of leaf-cutting ants can only be addressed in detail if their secondary metabolites are known. Here, we use an approach for the rapid identification of established bioactive compounds from microorganisms in ecological contexts by combining phylogenetic data, database searches, and liquid chromatography electrospray ionisation high resolution mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-HR-MS) screening. Antimycins A(1)-A(4), valinomycins, and actinomycins were identified in this manner from Streptomyces symbionts of leaf-cutting ants. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) imaging revealed the distribution of valinomycin directly on the integument of Acromyrmex echinatior workers. Valinomycins and actinomycins were also directly identified in samples from the waste of A. echinatior and A. niger leaf-cutting ants, suggesting that the compounds exert their antimicrobial and antifungal potential in the nests of leaf-cutting ants. Strong synergistic effects of the secondary meta-bolites produced by ant-associated Streptomyces were observed in the agar diffusion assay against Escovopsis weberi. Actinomycins strongly inhibit soil bacteria as well as other Streptomyces and Pseudonocardia symbionts. The antifungal antimycins are not only active against pathogenic fungi but also the garden fungus L. gongylophorus itself. In conclusion, secondary metabolites of microbial symbionts of leaf-cutting ants contribute to shaping the microbial communities within the nests of leaf-cutting ants. PMID:21245311

  8. Leaf endophyte load influences fungal garden development in leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    2012-01-01

    Background Previous work has shown that leaf-cutting ants prefer to cut leaf material with relatively low fungal endophyte content. This preference suggests that fungal endophytes exact a cost on the ants or on the development of their colonies. We hypothesized that endophytes may play a role in their host plants’ defense against leaf-cutting ants. To measure the long-term cost to the ant colony of fungal endophytes in their forage material, we conducted a 20-week laboratory experiment to measure fungal garden development for colonies that foraged on leaves with low or high endophyte content. Results Colony mass and the fungal garden dry mass did not differ significantly between the low and high endophyte feeding treatments. There was, however, a marginally significant trend toward greater mass of fungal garden per ant worker in the low relative to the high endophyte treatment. This trend was driven by differences in the fungal garden mass per worker from the earliest samples, when leaf-cutting ants had been foraging on low or high endophyte leaf material for only 2 weeks. At two weeks of foraging, the mean fungal garden mass per worker was 77% greater for colonies foraging on leaves with low relative to high endophyte loads. Conclusions Our data suggest that the cost of endophyte presence in ant forage material may be greatest to fungal colony development in its earliest stages, when there are few workers available to forage and to clean leaf material. This coincides with a period of high mortality for incipient colonies in the field. We discuss how the endophyte-leaf-cutter ant interaction may parallel constitutive defenses in plants, whereby endophytes reduce the rate of colony development when its risk of mortality is greatest. PMID:23140096

  9. Low host-pathogen specificity in the leaf-cutting ant-microbe symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Taerum, Stephen J; Cafaro, Matías J; Little, Ainslie E F; Schultz, Ted R; Currie, Cameron R

    2007-08-22

    Host-parasite associations are shaped by coevolutionary dynamics. One example is the complex fungus-growing ant-microbe symbiosis, which includes ancient host-parasite coevolution. Fungus-growing ants and the fungi they cultivate for food have an antagonistic symbiosis with Escovopsis, a specialized microfungus that infects the ants' fungus gardens. The evolutionary histories of the ant, cultivar and Escovopsis are highly congruent at the deepest phylogenetic levels, with specific parasite lineages exclusively associating with corresponding groups of ants and cultivar. Here, we examine host-parasite specificity at finer phylogenetic levels, within the most derived clade of fungus-growing ants, the leaf-cutters (Atta spp. and Acromyrmex spp.). Our molecular phylogeny of Escovopsis isolates from the leaf-cutter ant-microbe symbiosis confirms specificity at the broad phylogenetic level, but reveals frequent host-switching events between species and genera of leaf-cutter ants. Escovopsis strains isolated from Acromyrmex and Atta gardens occur together in the same clades, and very closely related strains can even infect the gardens of both ant genera. Experimental evidence supports low host-parasite specificity, with phylogenetically diverse strains of Escovopsis being capable of overgrowing all leaf-cutter cultivars examined. Thus, our findings indicate that this host-pathogen association is shaped by the farming ants having to protect their cultivated fungus from phylogenetically diverse Escovopsis garden pathogens. PMID:17550881

  10. Density of mushroom body synaptic complexes limits intraspecies brain miniaturization in highly polymorphic leaf-cutting ant workers

    PubMed Central

    Groh, Claudia; Kelber, Christina; Grübel, Kornelia; Rössler, Wolfgang

    2014-01-01

    Hymenoptera possess voluminous mushroom bodies (MBs), brain centres associated with sensory integration, learning and memory. The mushroom body input region (calyx) is organized in distinct synaptic complexes (microglomeruli, MG) that can be quantified to analyse body size-related phenotypic plasticity of synaptic microcircuits in these small brains. Leaf-cutting ant workers (Atta vollenweideri) exhibit an enormous size polymorphism, which makes them outstanding to investigate neuronal adaptations underlying division of labour and brain miniaturization. We particularly asked how size-related division of labour in polymorphic workers is reflected in volume and total numbers of MG in olfactory calyx subregions. Whole brains of mini, media and large workers were immunolabelled with anti-synapsin antibodies, and mushroom body volumes as well as densities and absolute numbers of MG were determined by confocal imaging and three-dimensional analyses. The total brain volume and absolute volumes of olfactory mushroom body subdivisions were positively correlated with head widths, but mini workers had significantly larger MB to total brain ratios. Interestingly, the density of olfactory MG was remarkably independent from worker size. Consequently, absolute numbers of olfactory MG still were approximately three times higher in large compared with mini workers. The results show that the maximum packing density of synaptic microcircuits may represent a species-specific limit to brain miniaturization. PMID:24807257

  11. Caste-specific RNA editomes in the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior

    PubMed Central

    Li, Qiye; Wang, Zongji; Lian, Jinmin; Schiøtt, Morten; Jin, Lijun; Zhang, Pei; Zhang, Yanyan; Nygaard, Sanne; Peng, Zhiyu; Zhou, Yang; Deng, Yuan; Zhang, Wenwei; Boomsma, Jacobus J.; Zhang, Guojie

    2014-01-01

    Eusocial insects have evolved the capacity to generate adults with distinct morphological, reproductive and behavioural phenotypes from the same genome. Recent studies suggest that RNA editing might enhance the diversity of gene products at the post-transcriptional level, particularly to induce functional changes in the nervous system. Using head samples from the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior, we compare RNA editomes across eusocial castes, identifying ca. 11,000 RNA editing sites in gynes, large workers and small workers. Those editing sites map to 800 genes functionally enriched for neurotransmission, circadian rhythm, temperature response, RNA splicing and carboxylic acid biosynthesis. Most A. echinatior editing sites are species specific, but 8–23% are conserved across ant subfamilies and likely to have been important for the evolution of eusociality in ants. The level of editing varies for the same site between castes, suggesting that RNA editing might be a general mechanism that shapes caste behaviour in ants. PMID:25266559

  12. Leucoagaricus gongylophorus uses leaf-cutting ants to vector proteolytic enzymes towards new plant substrate

    PubMed Central

    Kooij, Pepijn W; Rogowska-Wrzesinska, Adelina; Hoffmann, Daniel; Roepstorff, Peter; Boomsma, Jacobus J; Schiøtt, Morten

    2014-01-01

    The mutualism between leaf-cutting ants and their fungal symbionts revolves around processing and inoculation of fresh leaf pulp in underground fungus gardens, mediated by ant fecal fluid deposited on the newly added plant substrate. As herbivorous feeding often implies that growth is nitrogen limited, we cloned and sequenced six fungal proteases found in the fecal fluid of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior and identified them as two metalloendoproteases, two serine proteases and two aspartic proteases. The metalloendoproteases and serine proteases showed significant activity in fecal fluid at pH values of 5–7, but the aspartic proteases were inactive across a pH range of 3–10. Protease activity disappeared when the ants were kept on a sugar water diet without fungus. Relative to normal mycelium, both metalloendoproteases, both serine proteases and one aspartic protease were upregulated in the gongylidia, specialized hyphal tips whose only known function is to provide food to the ants. These combined results indicate that the enzymes are derived from the ingested fungal tissues. We infer that the five proteases are likely to accelerate protein extraction from plant cells in the leaf pulp that the ants add to the fungus garden, but regulatory functions such as activation of proenzymes are also possible, particularly for the aspartic proteases that were present but without showing activity. The proteases had high sequence similarities to proteolytic enzymes of phytopathogenic fungi, consistent with previous indications of convergent evolution of decomposition enzymes in attine ant fungal symbionts and phytopathogenic fungi. PMID:24401858

  13. Two fungal symbioses collide: endophytic fungi are not welcome in leaf-cutting ant gardens

    PubMed Central

    Van Bael, Sunshine A.; Fernández-Marín, Hermógenes; Valencia, Mariana C.; Rojas, Enith I.; Wcislo, William T.; Herre, Edward A.

    2009-01-01

    Interactions among the component members of different symbioses are not well studied. For example, leaf-cutting ants maintain an obligate symbiosis with their fungal garden, while the leaf material they provide to their garden is usually filled with endophytic fungi. The ants and their cultivar may interact with hundreds of endophytic fungal species, yet little is known about these interactions. Experimental manipulations showed that (i) ants spend more time cutting leaves from a tropical vine, Merremia umbellata, with high versus low endophyte densities, (ii) ants reduce the amount of endophytic fungi in leaves before planting them in their gardens, (iii) the ants' fungal cultivar inhibits the growth of most endophytes tested. Moreover, the inhibition by the ants' cultivar was relatively greater for more rapidly growing endophyte strains that could potentially out-compete or overtake the garden. Our results suggest that endophytes are not welcome in the garden, and that the ants and their cultivar combine ant hygiene behaviour with fungal inhibition to reduce endophyte activity in the nest. PMID:19364739

  14. Differential gene expression in Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants after challenges with two fungal pathogens.

    PubMed

    Yek, Sze H; Boomsma, Jacobus J; Schiøtt, Morten

    2013-04-01

    Social insects in general and leaf-cutting ants in particular have increased selection pressures on their innate immune system due to their social lifestyle and monoclonality of the symbiotic fungal cultivar. As this symbiosis is obligate for both parties, prophylactic behavioural defences against infections are expected to increase either ant survival or fungus-garden survival, but also to possibly trade off when specific infections differ in potential danger. We examined the effectiveness of prophylactic behaviours and modulations of innate immune defences by a combination of inoculation bioassays and genome-wide transcriptomic studies (RNA-Seq), using an ant pathogen (Metarhizium brunneum) and a fungus-garden pathogen (Escovopsis weberi) and administering inoculations both directly and indirectly (via the symbiotic partner). Upon detection of pathogen conidia, ant workers responded by increasing both general activity and the frequency of specific defence behaviours (self-grooming, allo-grooming, garden-grooming) independent of the pathogen encountered. This trend was also evident in the patterns of gene expression change. Both direct and indirect (via fungus garden) inoculations with Metarhizium induced a general up-regulation of gene expression, including a number of well-known immune-related genes. In contrast, direct inoculation of the fungus garden by Escovopsis induced an overall down-regulation of ant gene expression, whereas indirect inoculation (via the ants) did not, suggesting that increased activity of ants to remove this fungus-garden pathogen is costly and involves trade-offs with the activation of other physiological pathways. PMID:23480581

  15. Behavioral strategies of phorid parasitoids and responses of their hosts, the leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Elizalde, Luciana; Folgarait, Patricia Julia

    2012-01-01

    Host-searching and oviposition behaviors of parasitoids, and defensive responses of the hosts, are fundamental in shaping the ecology of host-parasitoid interactions. In order to uncover key behavioral features for the little known interactions between phorid parasitoids (Diptera: Phoridae) and their leaf-cutting ant hosts (Formicidae: Attini), host-related behavioral strategies (i.e., host searching and oviposition) for 13 phorid species, and host defensive responses (i.e., hitchhikers and particular body postures) for 11 ant species, were studied. Data was collected at 14 localities, one of them characterized by its high species richness for this host-parasitoid system. Phorid species showed both great variation and specificity in attacking behaviors. Some chose their hosts using either an ambush or an actively searching strategy, while some species attacked ants on different body parts, and specialized on ants performing different tasks, such as when ants were foraging, removing wastes to refuse piles, or repairing the nest. Combining all the behaviors recorded, most phorid species differed in performance in at least one, making it possible to recognize species in the field through their behavior. Phorid species that attacked hosts with greater activity levels showed overall higher attack rates, although there was no significant correlation between attack rates by most phorid species and ant activity outside the nest while parasitoids were attacking. The presence of phorids was a significant determinant for the presence of defensive behaviors by the ants. Although ant species varied in the incidence levels of these defensive behaviors, most ant species reacted against different phorids by utilizing similar behaviors, in contrast to what parasitoids do. General features of the observed phorid-ant interactions were parasitoid specialization and corresponding high interspecific variation in their behaviors, while their hosts showed generalized responses to attacks

  16. Behavioral Strategies of Phorid Parasitoids and Responses of Their Hosts, the Leaf-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Elizalde, Luciana; Folgarait, Patricia Julia

    2012-01-01

    Host-searching and oviposition behaviors of parasitoids, and defensive responses of the hosts, are fundamental in shaping the ecology of host-parasitoid interactions. In order to uncover key behavioral features for the little known interactions between phorid parasitoids (Diptera: Phoridae) and their leaf-cutting ant hosts (Formicidae: Attini), host-related behavioral strategies (i.e., host searching and oviposition) for 13 phorid species, and host defensive responses (i.e., hitchhikers and particular body postures) for 11 ant species, were studied. Data was collected at 14 localities, one of them characterized by its high species richness for this host-parasitoid system. Phorid species showed both great variation and specificity in attacking behaviors. Some chose their hosts using either an ambush or an actively searching strategy, while some species attacked ants on different body parts, and specialized on ants performing different tasks, such as when ants were foraging, removing wastes to refuse piles, or repairing the nest. Combining all the behaviors recorded, most phorid species differed in performance in at least one, making it possible to recognize species in the field through their behavior. Phorid species that attacked hosts with greater activity levels showed overall higher attack rates, although there was no significant correlation between attack rates by most phorid species and ant activity outside the nest while parasitoids were attacking. The presence of phorids was a significant determinant for the presence of defensive behaviors by the ants. Although ant species varied in the incidence levels of these defensive behaviors, most ant species reacted against different phorids by utilizing similar behaviors, in contrast to what parasitoids do. General features of the observed phorid-ant interactions were parasitoid specialization and corresponding high interspecific variation in their behaviors, while their hosts showed generalized responses to attacks

  17. Simple and rapid CE-UV method for the assessment of trail pheromone compounds of leaf-cutting ants' venom glands.

    PubMed

    Leitão, Amanda Araujo; Miranda, Paulo Cesar Muniz de Lacerda; Simionato, Ana Valéria Colnaghi

    2011-04-01

    Leaf-cutting ants cause large losses in several crops around the world. In the ant species Atta sexdens, each colony comprises up to 5 million individuals. In order to keep a close connection among such a large number of individuals, an efficient chemical communication system is necessary. Among other different substances, these animals use alkylpyrazines to mark their trails and to guide ant workers from the nest to their sources of food. In this study, CE-UV was used to apply a method for qualitative analysis of venom gland components of leaf-cutting ants. Mobility of these compounds proved to be a function of the ionization capability of these bases as well as their volumes. Migration order was thoroughly explained in terms of such parameters. The best analysis conditions were achieved with a BGE composed by 0.8% formic acid plus 20% methanol in water, hydrodynamic injection, and application of external pressure. Such analysis conditions may be easily applied in CE-MS analyses as well. CE-UV analyses proved to be as adequate as GC to analyze such compounds due to system detectability (LD ≅ 0.005 mmol/L), separation efficiency (from 5.07×10(4) to 1.23×10(5) theoretical plates), and resolution (minimum of 2.35). In addition, analysis time was ca. 15  min, which shows another advantage of CE analysis when compared with GC. Although the analytes are found in concentrations as low as 50  ng/venom glands, four putative pyrazine ring moiety substances could be detected in real samples, due to sample stacking and use of a capillary with extended detection cell. PMID:21462224

  18. Candicidin-producing Streptomyces support leaf-cutting ants to protect their fungus garden against the pathogenic fungus Escovopsis

    PubMed Central

    Haeder, Susanne; Wirth, Rainer; Herz, Hubert; Spiteller, Dieter

    2009-01-01

    Leaf-cutting ants such as Acromyrmex octospinosus live in obligate symbiosis with fungi of the genus Leucoagaricus, which they grow with harvested leaf material. The symbiotic fungi, in turn, serve as a major food source for the ants. This mutualistic relation is disturbed by the specialized pathogenic fungus Escovopsis sp., which can overcome Leucoagaricus sp. and thus destroy the ant colony. Microbial symbionts of leaf-cutting ants have been suggested to protect the fungus garden against Escovopsis by producing antifungal compounds [Currie CR, Scott JA, Summerbell RC, Malloch D (1999) Fungus-growing ants use antibiotic-producing bacteria to control garden parasites. Nature 398:701–704.]. To date, however, the chemical nature of these compounds has remained elusive. We characterized 19 leaf-cutting ant–associated microorganisms (5 Pseudonocardia, 1 Dermacoccus, and 13 Streptomyces) from 3 Acromyrmex species, A. octospinosus, A. echinatior, and A. volcanus, using 16S-rDNA analysis. Because the strain Streptomyces sp. Ao10 proved highly active against the pathogen Escovopsis, we identified the molecular basis of its antifungal activity. Using bioassay-guided fractionation, high-resolution electrospray mass spectrometry (HR-ESI-MS), and UV spectroscopy, and comparing the results with an authentic standard, we were able identify candicidin macrolides. Candicidin macrolides are highly active against Escovopsis but do not significantly affect the growth of the symbiotic fungus. At least one of the microbial isolates from each of the 3 leaf-cutting ant species analyzed produced candicidin macrolides. This suggests that candicidins play an important role in protecting the fungus gardens of leaf-cutting ants against pathogenic fungi. PMID:19270078

  19. Acromyrmex Leaf-Cutting Ants Have Simple Gut Microbiota with Nitrogen-Fixing Potential.

    PubMed

    Sapountzis, Panagiotis; Zhukova, Mariya; Hansen, Lars H; Sørensen, Søren J; Schiøtt, Morten; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2015-08-15

    Ants and termites have independently evolved obligate fungus-farming mutualisms, but their gardening procedures are fundamentally different, as the termites predigest their plant substrate whereas the ants deposit it directly on the fungus garden. Fungus-growing termites retained diverse gut microbiota, but bacterial gut communities in fungus-growing leaf-cutting ants have not been investigated, so it is unknown whether and how they are specialized on an exclusively fungal diet. Here we characterized the gut bacterial community of Panamanian Acromyrmex species, which are dominated by only four bacterial taxa: Wolbachia, Rhizobiales, and two Entomoplasmatales taxa. We show that the Entomoplasmatales can be both intracellular and extracellular across different gut tissues, Wolbachia is mainly but not exclusively intracellular, and the Rhizobiales species is strictly extracellular and confined to the gut lumen, where it forms biofilms along the hindgut cuticle supported by an adhesive matrix of polysaccharides. Tetracycline diets eliminated the Entomoplasmatales symbionts but hardly affected Wolbachia and only moderately reduced the Rhizobiales, suggesting that the latter are protected by the biofilm matrix. We show that the Rhizobiales symbiont produces bacterial NifH proteins that have been associated with the fixation of nitrogen, suggesting that these compartmentalized hindgut symbionts alleviate nutritional constraints emanating from an exclusive fungus garden diet reared on a substrate of leaves. PMID:26048932

  20. Immune defense in leaf-cutting ants: a cross-fostering approach.

    PubMed

    Armitage, Sophie A O; Broch, Jens F; Marín, Hermogenes Fernández; Nash, David R; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2011-06-01

    To ameliorate the impact of disease, social insects combine individual innate immune defenses with collective social defenses. This implies that there are different levels of selection acting on investment in immunity, each with their own trade-offs. We present the results of a cross-fostering experiment designed to address the influences of genotype and social rearing environment upon individual and social immune defenses. We used a multiply mating leaf-cutting ant, enabling us to test for patriline effects within a colony, as well as cross-colony matriline effects. The worker's father influenced both individual innate immunity (constitutive antibacterial activity) and the size of the metapleural gland, which secretes antimicrobial compounds and functions in individual and social defense, indicating multiple mating could have important consequences for both defense types. However, the primarily social defense, a Pseudonocardia bacteria that helps to control pathogens in the ants' fungus garden, showed a significant colony of origin by rearing environment interaction, whereby ants that acquired the bacteria of a foster colony obtained a less abundant cover of bacteria: one explanation for this pattern would be co-adaptation between host colonies and their vertically transmitted mutualist. These results illustrate the complexity of the selection pressures that affect the expression of multilevel immune defenses. PMID:21644963

  1. Acromyrmex Leaf-Cutting Ants Have Simple Gut Microbiota with Nitrogen-Fixing Potential

    PubMed Central

    Zhukova, Mariya; Hansen, Lars H.; Sørensen, Søren J.; Schiøtt, Morten

    2015-01-01

    Ants and termites have independently evolved obligate fungus-farming mutualisms, but their gardening procedures are fundamentally different, as the termites predigest their plant substrate whereas the ants deposit it directly on the fungus garden. Fungus-growing termites retained diverse gut microbiota, but bacterial gut communities in fungus-growing leaf-cutting ants have not been investigated, so it is unknown whether and how they are specialized on an exclusively fungal diet. Here we characterized the gut bacterial community of Panamanian Acromyrmex species, which are dominated by only four bacterial taxa: Wolbachia, Rhizobiales, and two Entomoplasmatales taxa. We show that the Entomoplasmatales can be both intracellular and extracellular across different gut tissues, Wolbachia is mainly but not exclusively intracellular, and the Rhizobiales species is strictly extracellular and confined to the gut lumen, where it forms biofilms along the hindgut cuticle supported by an adhesive matrix of polysaccharides. Tetracycline diets eliminated the Entomoplasmatales symbionts but hardly affected Wolbachia and only moderately reduced the Rhizobiales, suggesting that the latter are protected by the biofilm matrix. We show that the Rhizobiales symbiont produces bacterial NifH proteins that have been associated with the fixation of nitrogen, suggesting that these compartmentalized hindgut symbionts alleviate nutritional constraints emanating from an exclusive fungus garden diet reared on a substrate of leaves. PMID:26048932

  2. Purpureocillium lilacinum, potential agent for biological control of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex lundii.

    PubMed

    Goffré, D; Folgarait, P J

    2015-09-01

    Many leaf-cutter ant species are well known pests in Latin America, including species of the genera Acromyrmex and Atta. An environmentally friendly strategy to reduce the number of leafcutter ants and avoid indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides is biological control. In this work we evaluated the effectiveness of a strain of the entomopathogen Purpureocillium lilacinum, against worker ants from six Acromyrmex lundii field colonies, after immersions in pure suspensions at a concentration of 1×10(6)conidiaml(-1). Survival of ants treated with P. lilacinum was significantly lower than that recorded in controls, and median lethal time (LT50) was 6-7days. P. lilacinum was responsible for 85.6% (80.6-89.7) of the mortality in inoculated ants, in which we found that the percentage of other entomopathogens that naturally infected ants decreased also, suggesting a good competitive capability of the fungus. Horizontal transmission to non-inoculated ants was also evidenced, given that 58.5% (41.9-64.2) of them died because of P. lilacinum. Moreover, we tested pathogenicity for three concentrations of this strain (1.0×10(4), 10(6) and 10(8)conidiaml(-1)) and found a significantly faster mortality of ants and greater median percentage of infection at 10(8)conidiaml(-1) of P. lilacinum. CL50 value was 2.8×10(5)conidiaml(-1). We thus propose the use of P. lilacinum as a biological control agent of leafcutter ants in crops and plantations. PMID:26205173

  3. Sperm mixing in the polyandrous leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior

    PubMed Central

    Stürup, Marlene; Nash, David R; Hughes, William O H; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2014-01-01

    The insemination of queens by sperm from multiple males (polyandry) has evolved in a number of eusocial insect lineages despite the likely costs of the behavior. The selective advantages in terms of colony fitness must therefore also be significant and there is now good evidence that polyandry increases genetic variation among workers, thereby improving the efficiency of division of labor, resistance against disease, and diluting the impact of genetically incompatible matings. However, these advantages will only be maximized if the sperm of initially discrete ejaculates are mixed when stored in queen spermathecae and used for egg fertilization in a “fair raffle.” Remarkably, however, very few studies have addressed the level of sperm mixing in social insects. Here we analyzed sperm use over time in the highly polyandrous leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior. We genotyped cohorts of workers produced either 2 months apart or up to over a year apart, and batches of eggs laid up to over 2 years apart, and tested whether fluctuations in patriline distributions deviated from random. We show that the representation of father males in both egg and worker cohorts does not change over time, consistent with obligatorily polyandrous queens maximizing their fitness when workers are as genetically diverse as possible. PMID:25478149

  4. Preliminary in vitro insights into the use of natural fungal pathogens of leaf-cutting ants as biocontrol agents.

    PubMed

    Folgarait, Patricia; Gorosito, Norma; Poulsen, Michael; Currie, Cameron R

    2011-09-01

    Leaf-cutting ants are one of the main herbivores of the Neotropics, where they represent an important agricultural pest. These ants are particularly difficult to control because of the complex network of microbial symbionts. Leaf-cutting ants have traditionally been controlled through pesticide application, but there is a need for alternative, more environmentally friendly, control methods such as biological control. Potential promising biocontrol candidates include the microfungi Escovopsis spp. (anamorphic Hypocreales), which are specialized pathogens of the fungi the ants cultivate for food. These pathogens are suppressed through ant behaviors and ant-associated antibiotic-producing Actinobacteria. In order to be an effective biocontrol agent, Escovopsis has to overcome these defenses. Here, we evaluate, using microbial in vitro assays, whether defenses in the ant-cultivated fungus strain (Leucoagaricus sp.) and Actinobacteria from the ant pest Acromyrmex lundii have the potential to limit the use of Escovopsis in biocontrol. We also explore, for the first time, possible synergistic biocontrol between Escovopsis and the entomopathogenic fungus Lecanicillium lecanii. All strains of Escovopsis proved to overgrow A. lundii cultivar in less than 7 days, with the Escovopsis strain isolated from a different leaf-cutting ant species being the most efficient. Escovopsis challenged with a Streptomyces strain isolated from A. lundii did not exhibit significant growth inhibition. Both results are encouraging for the use of Escovopsis as a biocontrol agent. Although we found that L. lecanii can suppress the growth of the cultivar, it also had a negative impact on Escovopsis, making the success of simultaneous use of these two fungi for biocontrol of A. lundii questionable. PMID:21739253

  5. Antagonistic interactions between garden yeasts and microfungal garden pathogens of leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Rodrigues, Andre; Cable, Rachel N; Mueller, Ulrich G; Bacci, Maurício; Pagnocca, Fernando C

    2009-10-01

    We investigate the diversity of yeasts isolated in gardens of the leafcutter ant Atta texana. Repeated sampling of gardens from four nests over a 1-year time period showed that gardens contain a diverse assemblage of yeasts. The yeast community in gardens consisted mostly of yeasts associated with plants or soil, but community composition changed between sampling periods. In order to understand the potential disease-suppressing roles of the garden yeasts, we screened isolates for antagonistic effects against known microfungal garden contaminants. In vitro assays revealed that yeasts inhibited the mycelial growth of two strains of Escovopsis (a specialized attine garden parasite), Syncephalastrum racemosum (a fungus often growing in gardens of leafcutter lab nests), and the insect pathogen Beauveria bassiana. These garden yeasts add to the growing list of disease-suppressing microbes in attine nests that may contribute synergistically, together with actinomycetes and Burkholderia bacteria, to protect the gardens and the ants against diseases. Additionally, we suggest that garden immunity against problem fungi may therefore derive not only from the presence of disease-suppressing Pseudonocardia actinomycetes, but from an enrichment of multiple disease-suppressing microorganisms in the garden matrix. PMID:19449210

  6. Considerations for Assessing Maximum Critical Temperatures in Small Ectothermic Animals: Insights from Leaf-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Ribeiro, Pedro Leite; Camacho, Agustín; Navas, Carlos Arturo

    2012-01-01

    The thermal limits of individual animals were originally proposed as a link between animal physiology and thermal ecology. Although this link is valid in theory, the evaluation of physiological tolerances involves some problems that are the focus of this study. One rationale was that heating rates shall influence upper critical limits, so that ecological thermal limits need to consider experimental heating rates. In addition, if thermal limits are not surpassed in experiments, subsequent tests of the same individual should yield similar results or produce evidence of hardening. Finally, several non-controlled variables such as time under experimental conditions and procedures may affect results. To analyze these issues we conducted an integrative study of upper critical temperatures in a single species, the ant Atta sexdens rubropiosa, an animal model providing large numbers of individuals of diverse sizes but similar genetic makeup. Our specific aims were to test the 1) influence of heating rates in the experimental evaluation of upper critical temperature, 2) assumptions of absence of physical damage and reproducibility, and 3) sources of variance often overlooked in the thermal-limits literature; and 4) to introduce some experimental approaches that may help researchers to separate physiological and methodological issues. The upper thermal limits were influenced by both heating rates and body mass. In the latter case, the effect was physiological rather than methodological. The critical temperature decreased during subsequent tests performed on the same individual ants, even one week after the initial test. Accordingly, upper thermal limits may have been overestimated by our (and typical) protocols. Heating rates, body mass, procedures independent of temperature and other variables may affect the estimation of upper critical temperatures. Therefore, based on our data, we offer suggestions to enhance the quality of measurements, and offer recommendations to

  7. Draft Genome Sequence of the Ant-Associated Fungus Phialophora attae (CBS 131958)

    PubMed Central

    Moreno, Leandro F.; Stielow, J. Benjamin; de Vries, Michel; Weiss, Vinicius A.; Vicente, Vania A.

    2015-01-01

    The black yeast Phialophora attae was isolated from the cuticle of tropical ant gynes. The ant-fungus association is sustained due to symbiotic evolutionary adaptations that allow fungal assimilation and tolerance of toxic compounds produced by the ant. The genome sequence of the first ant-associated fungus, P. attae, is presented here. PMID:26586868

  8. Learning through the waste: olfactory cues from the colony refuse influence plant preferences in foraging leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Arenas, Andrés; Roces, Flavio

    2016-08-15

    Leaf-cutting ants learn to avoid plants initially harvested if they prove to be harmful for their symbiotic fungus once incorporated into the nest. At this point, waste particles removed from the fungus garden are likely to contain cues originating from both the unsuitable plant and the damaged fungus. We investigated whether leaf-cutting ant foragers learn to avoid unsuitable plants solely through the colony waste. We fed subcolonies of Acromymex ambiguus privet leaves treated with a fungicide undetectable to the ants, then collected the produced waste, and placed it into the fungus chamber of naive subcolonies. In individual choice tests, naive foragers preferred privet leaves before waste was put into the fungus chamber, but avoided them afterwards. Evidence on the influence of olfactory cues from the waste on decision making by foragers was obtained by scenting and transferring waste particles from subcolonies that had been fed either fungicide-treated or untreated leaves. In choice experiments, foragers from subcolonies given scented waste originating from fungicide-treated leaves collected fewer sugared paper discs with that scent compared with foragers from subcolonies given scented waste from untreated leaves. The results indicate that foragers learn to avoid plants unsuitable for the fungus by associating plant odours and cues from the damaged fungus that are present in waste particles. It is argued that waste particles may contribute to spread information about noxious plants for the fungus within the colony. PMID:27284068

  9. Nest enlargement in leaf-cutting ants: relocated brood and fungus trigger the excavation of new chambers.

    PubMed

    Römer, Daniela; Roces, Flavio

    2014-01-01

    During colony growth, leaf-cutting ants enlarge their nests by excavating tunnels and chambers housing their fungus gardens and brood. Workers are expected to excavate new nest chambers at locations across the soil profile that offer suitable environmental conditions for brood and fungus rearing. It is an open question whether new chambers are excavated in advance, or will emerge around brood or fungus initially relocated to a suitable site in a previously-excavated tunnel. In the laboratory, we investigated the mechanisms underlying the excavation of new nest chambers in the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex lundi. Specifically, we asked whether workers relocate brood and fungus to suitable nest locations, and to what extent the relocated items trigger the excavation of a nest chamber and influence its shape. When brood and fungus were exposed to unfavorable environmental conditions, either low temperatures or low humidity, both were relocated, but ants clearly preferred to relocate the brood first. Workers relocated fungus to places containing brood, demonstrating that subsequent fungus relocation spatially follows the brood deposition. In addition, more ants aggregated at sites containing brood. When presented with a choice between two otherwise identical digging sites, but one containing brood, ants' excavation activity was higher at this site, and the shape of the excavated cavity was more rounded and chamber-like. The presence of fungus also led to the excavation of rounder shapes, with higher excavation activity at the site that also contained brood. We argue that during colony growth, workers preferentially relocate brood to suitable locations along a tunnel, and that relocated brood spatially guides fungus relocation and leads to increased digging activity around them. We suggest that nest chambers are not excavated in advance, but emerge through a self-organized process resulting from the aggregation of workers and their density-dependent digging behavior

  10. Use of Seeds as Fungus Garden Substrate Changes the Organization of Labor Among Leaf-Cutting Ant Workers.

    PubMed

    Hastenreiter, I N; Sales, T A; Camargo, R S; Forti, L C; Lopes, J F S

    2015-08-01

    Seeds of different plant species constitute an alternative but also significant substrate that leaf-cutting ants use to cultivate their fungus garden. However, how they are processed inside the nest and if their use implies differential allocation of worker size classes are still poorly known. Using laboratory colonies of Acromyrmex subterraneus (Forel) as a model, the behaviors related to the processing of three different seeds (sesame, guava, and grape) as fungus substrate were listed. At the same time, we measured how each worker size class contributed to the execution of these behaviors by registering their respective frequency. It was found that medium-sized (1.2 > head width < 1.6 mm) and minimum-sized (head width <1.1 mm) workers assumed the role of incorporation for sesame and grape seeds, respectively. Major-sized workers (head width >1.7 mm) were concentrated on licking and holding guava seeds. Tegument removal was the only task observed that differs between treatment of seeds and treatment of leaves before their incorporation, as described in the literature. It was verified that different species of seeds imply a differential allocation of worker size classes and the inclusion or exclusion of some tasks from the behavioral repertoire. Regardless of the substrate type, leaf-cutting ant workers follow a coordinated and specialized procedure to cultivate the fungus garden but always maintain a high degree of cooperation. PMID:26050554

  11. Leaf-cutting ant nests near roads increase fitness of exotic plant species in natural protected areas

    PubMed Central

    Farji-Brener, Alejandro G; Ghermandi, Luciana

    2008-01-01

    Understanding the mechanisms that promote the invasion of natural protected areas by exotic plants is a central concern for ecology. We demonstrated that nests of the leaf-cutting ant, Acromyrmex lobicornis, near roadsides promote the abundance, growth and reproduction of two exotic plant species, Carduus nutans and Onopordum acanthium, in a national park in northern Patagonia, Argentina and determine the mechanisms that produce these effects. Refuse dumps (RDs) from ant nests have a higher nutrient content than nearby non-nest soils (NNSs); foliar nutrient content and their 15N isotopic signature strongly suggest that plants reach and use these nutrients. Both species of exotic plants in RDs were 50–600% more abundant; seedlings had 100–1000% more foliar area and root and leaf biomass; and adult plants produced 100–300% more seeds than nearby NNS plants. Plants can thus gain access to and benefit from the nutrient content of ant RD, supporting the hypotheses that enhanced resource availability promotes exotic plant performance that could increase the likelihood of biological invasions. The two exotics produce an estimated of 8 385 000 more seeds ha−1 in areas with ant nests compared with areas without; this exceptional increase in seed production represents a potential threat to nearby non-invaded communities. We propose several management strategies to mitigate this threat. Removal efforts of exotics should be focused on ant RDs, where plants are denser and represent a higher source of propagules. PMID:18364316

  12. Interaction between workers during a short time window is required for bacterial symbiont transmission in Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Marsh, Sarah E; Poulsen, Michael; Pinto-Tomás, Adrián; Currie, Cameron R

    2014-01-01

    Stable associations between partners over time are critical for the evolution of mutualism. Hosts employ a variety of mechanisms to maintain specificity with bacterial associates. Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants farm a fungal cultivar as their primary nutrient source. These ants also carry a Pseudonocardia Actinobacteria exosymbiont on their bodies that produces antifungal compounds that help inhibit specialized parasites of the ants' fungal garden. Major workers emerge from their pupal cases (eclose) symbiont-free, but exhibit visible Actinobacterial coverage within 14 days post-eclosion. Using subcolony experiments, we investigate exosymbiont transmission within Acromyrmex colonies. We found successful transmission to newly eclosed major workers fostered by major workers with visible Actinobacteria in all cases (100% acquiring, n = 19). In contrast, newly eclosed major workers reared without exosymbiont-carrying major workers did not acquire visible Actinobacteria (0% acquiring, n = 73). We further show that the majority of ants exposed to major workers with exosymbionts within 2 hours of eclosion acquired bacteria (60.7% acquiring, n = 28), while normal acquisition did not occur when exposure occurred later than 2 hours post-eclosion (0% acquiring, n = 18). Our findings show that transmission of exosymbionts to newly eclosed major workers occurs through interactions with exosymbiont-covered workers within a narrow time window after eclosion. This mode of transmission likely helps ensure the defensive function within colonies, as well as specificity and partner fidelity in the ant-bacterium association. PMID:25058579

  13. Interaction between Workers during a Short Time Window Is Required for Bacterial Symbiont Transmission in Acromyrmex Leaf-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Marsh, Sarah E.; Poulsen, Michael; Pinto-Tomás, Adrián; Currie, Cameron R.

    2014-01-01

    Stable associations between partners over time are critical for the evolution of mutualism. Hosts employ a variety of mechanisms to maintain specificity with bacterial associates. Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants farm a fungal cultivar as their primary nutrient source. These ants also carry a Pseudonocardia Actinobacteria exosymbiont on their bodies that produces antifungal compounds that help inhibit specialized parasites of the ants' fungal garden. Major workers emerge from their pupal cases (eclose) symbiont-free, but exhibit visible Actinobacterial coverage within 14 days post-eclosion. Using subcolony experiments, we investigate exosymbiont transmission within Acromyrmex colonies. We found successful transmission to newly eclosed major workers fostered by major workers with visible Actinobacteria in all cases (100% acquiring, n = 19). In contrast, newly eclosed major workers reared without exosymbiont-carrying major workers did not acquire visible Actinobacteria (0% acquiring, n = 73). We further show that the majority of ants exposed to major workers with exosymbionts within 2 hours of eclosion acquired bacteria (60.7% acquiring, n = 28), while normal acquisition did not occur when exposure occurred later than 2 hours post-eclosion (0% acquiring, n = 18). Our findings show that transmission of exosymbionts to newly eclosed major workers occurs through interactions with exosymbiont-covered workers within a narrow time window after eclosion. This mode of transmission likely helps ensure the defensive function within colonies, as well as specificity and partner fidelity in the ant-bacterium association. PMID:25058579

  14. Behavioural effects of juvenile hormone and their influence on division of labour in leaf-cutting ant societies.

    PubMed

    Norman, Victoria C; Hughes, William O H

    2016-01-01

    Division of labour in social insects represents a major evolutionary transition, but the physiological mechanisms that regulate this are still little understood. Experimental work with honey bees, and correlational analyses in other social insects, have implicated juvenile hormone (JH) as a regulatory factor, but direct experimental evidence of behavioural effects of JH in social insects is generally lacking. Here, we used experimental manipulation of JH to show that raised JH levels in leaf-cutting ants results in workers becoming more active, phototactic and threat responsive, and engaging in more extranidal activity - behavioural changes that we show are all characteristic of the transition from intranidal work to foraging. These behavioural effects on division of labour suggest that the JH mediation of behaviour occurs across multiple independent evolutions of eusociality, and may be a key endocrine regulator of the division of labour which has produced the remarkable ecological and evolutionary success of social insects. PMID:26739685

  15. Branching angles reflect a trade-off between reducing trail maintenance costs or travel distances in leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Farji-Brener, Alejandro Gustavo; Chinchilla, Federico; Umaña, María Natalia; Ocasio-Torres, Maríia Elena; Chauta-Mellizo, Alexander; Acosta-Rojas, Diana; Marinaro, Sofía; Curth, Mónica de Torres; Amador-Vargas, Sabrina

    2015-02-01

    The design of transport paths in consuming entities that use routes to access food should be under strong selective pressures to reduce costs and increase benefits. We studied the adaptive nature of branching angles in foraging trail networks of the two most abundant tropical leaf-cutting ant species. We mathematically assessed how these angles should reflect the relative weight of the pressure for reducing either trail maintenance effort or traveling distances. Bifurcation angles of ant foraging trails strongly differed depending on the location of the nests. Ant colonies in open areas showed more acute branching angles, which best shorten travel distances but create longer new trail sections to maintain than a perpendicular branch, suggesting that trail maintenance costs are smaller compared to the benefit of reduced traveling distance. Conversely, ant colonies in forest showed less acute branching angles, indicating that maintenance costs are of larger importance relative to the benefits of shortening travel distances. The trail pattern evident in forests may be attributable to huge amounts of litterfall that .increase trail maintenance costs, and the abundant canopy cover that reduces traveling costs by mitigating direct sunlight and rain. These results suggest that branching angles represent a trade-off between reducing maintenance work and shortening travel distances, illustrating how animal constructions can adjust to diverse environmental conditions. This idea may help to understand diverse networks systems, including urban travel networks. PMID:26240872

  16. Variation in Pseudonocardia antibiotic defence helps govern parasite-induced morbidity in Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    Poulsen, Michael; Cafaro, Matías J.; Erhardt, Daniel P.; Little, Ainslie E. F.; Gerardo, Nicole M.; Tebbets, Brad; Klein, Bruce S.; Currie, Cameron R.

    2012-01-01

    Summary Host–parasite associations are potentially shaped by evolutionary reciprocal selection dynamics, in which parasites evolve to overcome host defences and hosts are selected to counteract these through the evolution of new defences. This is expected to result in variation in parasite-defence interactions, and the evolution of resistant parasites causing increased virulence. Fungus-growing ants maintain antibiotic-producing Pseudonocardia (Actinobacteria) that aid in protection against specialized parasites of the ants’ fungal gardens, and current evidence indicates that both symbionts have been associated with the ants for millions of years. Here we examine the extent of variation in the defensive capabilities of the ant–actinobacterial association against Escovopsis (parasite-defence interactions), and evaluate how variation impacts colonies of fungus-growing ants. We focus on five species of Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants, crossing 12 strains of Pseudonocardia with 12 strains of Escovopsis in a Petri plate bioassay experiment, and subsequently conduct subcolony infection experiments using resistant and non-resistant parasite strains. Diversity in parasite-defence interactions, including pairings where the parasites are resistant, suggests that chemical variation in the antibiotics produced by different actinobacterial strains are responsible for the observed variation in parasite susceptibility. By evaluating the role this variation plays during infection, we show that infection of ant subcolonies with resistant parasite strains results in significantly higher parasite-induced morbidity with respect to garden biomass loss. Our findings thus further establish the role of Pseudonocardia-derived antibiotics in helping defend the ants’ fungus garden from the parasite Escovopsis, and provide evidence that small molecules can play important roles as antibiotics in a natural system. PMID:22896766

  17. Social life and sanitary risks: evolutionary and current ecological conditions determine waste management in leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Farji-Brener, Alejandro G; Elizalde, Luciana; Fernández-Marín, Hermógenes; Amador-Vargas, Sabrina

    2016-05-25

    Adequate waste management is vital for the success of social life, because waste accumulation increases sanitary risks in dense societies. We explored why different leaf-cutting ants (LCA) species locate their waste in internal nest chambers or external piles, including ecological context and accounting for phylogenetic relations. We propose that waste location depends on whether the environmental conditions enhance or reduce the risk of infection. We obtained the geographical range, habitat and refuse location of LCA from published literature, and experimentally determined whether pathogens on ant waste survived to the high soil temperatures typical of xeric habitats. The habitat of the LCA determined waste location after phylogenetic correction: species with external waste piles mainly occur in xeric environments, whereas those with internal waste chambers mainly inhabit more humid habitats. The ancestral reconstruction suggests that dumping waste externally is less derived than digging waste nest chambers. Empirical results showed that high soil surface temperatures reduce pathogen prevalence from LCA waste. We proposed that LCA living in environments unfavourable for pathogens (i.e. xeric habitats) avoid digging costs by dumping the refuse above ground. Conversely, in environments suitable for pathogens, LCA species prevent the spread of diseases by storing waste underground, presumably, a behaviour that contributed to the colonization of humid habitats. These results highlight the adaptation of organisms to the hygienic challenges of social living, and illustrate how sanitary behaviours can result from a combination of evolutionary history and current environmental conditions. PMID:27226469

  18. Yet More “Weeds” in the Garden: Fungal Novelties from Nests of Leaf-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Augustin, Juliana O.; Groenewald, Johannes Z.; Nascimento, Robson J.; Mizubuti, Eduardo S. G.; Barreto, Robert W.; Elliot, Simon L.; Evans, Harry C.

    2013-01-01

    Background Symbiotic relationships modulate the evolution of living organisms in all levels of biological organization. A notable example of symbiosis is that of attine ants (Attini; Formicidae: Hymenoptera) and their fungal cultivars (Lepiotaceae and Pterulaceae; Agaricales: Basidiomycota). In recent years, this mutualism has emerged as a model system for studying coevolution, speciation, and multitrophic interactions. Ubiquitous in this ant-fungal symbiosis is the “weedy” fungus Escovopsis (Hypocreales: Ascomycota), known only as a mycoparasite of attine fungal gardens. Despite interest in its biology, ecology and molecular phylogeny—noting, especially, the high genetic diversity encountered—which has led to a steady flow of publications over the past decade, only two species of Escovopsis have formally been described. Methods and Results We sampled from fungal gardens and garden waste (middens) of nests of the leaf-cutting ant genus Acromyrmex in a remnant of subtropical Atlantic rainforest in Minas Gerais, Brazil. In culture, distinct morphotypes of Escovopsis sensu lato were recognized. Using both morphological and molecular analyses, three new species of Escovopsis were identified. These are described and illustrated herein—E. lentecrescens, E. microspora, and E. moelleri—together with a re-description of the genus and the type species, E. weberi. The new genus Escovopsioides is erected for a fourth morphotype. We identify, for the first time, a mechanism for horizontal transmission via middens. Conclusions The present study makes a start at assigning names and formal descriptions to these specific fungal parasites of attine nests. Based on the results of this exploratory and geographically-restricted survey, we expect there to be many more species of the genus Escovopsis and its relatives associated with nests of both the lower and higher Attini throughout their neotropical range, as suggested in previous studies. PMID:24376525

  19. Ectosymbionts and immunity in the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex subterraneus subterraneus.

    PubMed

    de Souza, Danival José; Lenoir, Alain; Kasuya, Maria Catarina Megumi; Ribeiro, Myriam Marques Ramos; Devers, Séverine; Couceiro, Joel da Cruz; Della Lucia, Terezinha Maria Castro

    2013-02-01

    Associations with symbiotic organisms can serve as a strategy for social insects to resist pathogens. Antibiotics produced by attine ectosymbionts (Actinobacteria) suppress the growth of Escovopsis spp., the specialized parasite of attine fungus gardens. Our objective was to evaluate whether the presence or absence of symbiotic actinobacteria covering the whole ant cuticle is related to differential immunocompetence, respiratory rate and cuticular hydrocarbons (CHs). We evaluated these parameters in three worker groups of Acromyrmex subterraneus subterraneus: External workers (EXT), internal workers with actinobacteria covering the whole body (INB) and internal workers without actinobacteria covering the whole body (INØ). We also eliminated the actinobacteria by antibiotic treatment and examined worker encapsulation response. INB ants showed lower rates of encapsulation and respiration than did the EXT and INØ ants. The lower encapsulation rate did not seem to be a cost imposed by actinomycetes because the elimination of the actinomycetes did not increase the encapsulation rate. Instead, we propose that actinobacteria confer protection to young workers until the maturation of their immune system. Actinobacteria do not seem to change nestmate recognition in these colonies. Although it is known that actinobacteria have a specific action against Escovopsis spp., our studies, along with other independent studies, indicate that actinomycetes may also be important for the individual health of the workers. PMID:23207105

  20. Hygienic Behavior, Liquid-Foraging, and Trophallaxis in the Leaf-Cutting Ants, Acromyrmex subterraneus and Acromyrmex octospinosus

    PubMed Central

    Richard, Freddie-Jeanne; Errard, Christine

    2009-01-01

    Neotropical leaf-cutting ants (tribe Attini) live in obligate symbiosis with fungus they culture for food. To protect themselves and their fungus garden from pathogens, they minimize the entry of microorganisms through mechanical and chemical means. In this study, focusing on the species Acromyrmex subterraneus and A. octospinosus, (Hymeoptera: Formicidae). Self- and allo-grooming behavior were quantified and it was found that A. octospinosus workers spend less time in self-grooming than A. subterraneus. In the experimental absence of fungus in A. subterraneus, the times spent in these two behaviors are not affected; however workers spend significantly more time immobile. Hygienic and trophallaxis behaviors were examined as well as the possibility that workers exchange food, and the grooming behavior of foraging and non-foraging workers were compared. Behavioral observations revealed that large workers spent more time grooming than small workers, and more than 62% of replete foragers passed collected liquid food via trophallaxis to a nestmate. However, trophallaxis was rarely observed between non-forager workers. These results suggest that trophallaxis permits the exchange of alimentary liquid between colony members, but it is not important for spreading the colony odor signature. PMID:20053118

  1. Density-dependence and within-host competition in a semelparous parasite of leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    Hughes, William OH; Petersen, Klaus S; Ugelvig, Line V; Pedersen, Dorthe; Thomsen, Lene; Poulsen, Michael; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2004-01-01

    Background Parasite heterogeneity and within-host competition are thought to be important factors influencing the dynamics of host-parasite relationships. Yet, while there have been many theoretical investigations of how these factors may act, empirical data is more limited. We investigated the effects of parasite density and heterogeneity on parasite virulence and fitness using four strains of the entomopathogenic fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae var. anisopliae, and its leaf-cutting ant host Acromyrmex echinatior as the model system. Results The relationship between parasite density and infection was sigmoidal, with there being an invasion threshold for an infection to occur (an Allee effect). Although spore production was positively density-dependent, parasite fitness decreased with increasing parasite density, indicating within-host scramble competition. The dynamics differed little between the four strains tested. In mixed infections of three strains the infection-growth dynamics were unaffected by parasite heterogeneity. Conclusions The strength of within-host competition makes dispersal the best strategy for the parasite. Parasite heterogeneity may not have effected virulence or the infection dynamics either because the most virulent strain outcompeted the others, or because the interaction involved scramble competition that was impervious to parasite heterogeneity. The dynamics observed may be common for virulent parasites, such as Metarhizium, that produce aggregated transmission stages. Such parasites make useful models for investigating infection dynamics and the impact of parasite competition. PMID:15541185

  2. Fungal communities in gardens of the leafcutter ant Atta cephalotes in forest and cabruca agrosystems of southern Bahia State (Brazil).

    PubMed

    Reis, Bárbara Monique dos Santos; Silva, Aline; Alvarez, Martín Roberto; Oliveira, Tássio Brito de; Rodrigues, Andre

    2015-12-01

    Leaf-cutting ants interact with several fungi in addition to the fungal symbiont they cultivate for food. Here, we assessed alien fungal communities in colonies of Atta cephalotes. Fungus garden fragments were sampled from colonies in the Atlantic Rainforest and in a cabruca agrosystem in the state of Bahia (Brazil) in two distinct periods to evaluate whether differences in nest habitat influence the diversity of fungi in the ant colonies. We recovered a total of 403 alien fungi isolates from 628 garden fragments. The prevalent taxa found in these samples were Escovopsis sp. (26 %), Escovopsioides nivea (24 %), and Trichoderma spirale (10.9 %). Fungal diversity was similar between the colonies sampled in both areas suggesting that ants focus on reducing loads of alien fungi in the fungus gardens instead of avoiding specific fungi. However, fungal taxa composition differed between colonies sampled in the two areas and between the sampling periods. These differences are likely explained by the availability of plant substrates available for foraging over habitats and periods. Ordination analysis further supported that sampling period was the main attribute for community structuring but also revealed that additional factors may explain the structuring of fungal communities in colonies of A. cephalotes. PMID:26615740

  3. Symbiotic bacteria on the cuticle of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex subterraneus subterraneus protect workers from attack by entomopathogenic fungi.

    PubMed

    Mattoso, Thalles C; Moreira, Denise D O; Samuels, Richard I

    2012-06-23

    Although only discovered in 1999, the symbiotic filamentous actinobacteria present on the integument of certain species of leaf-cutting ants have been the subject of intense research. These bacteria have been shown to specifically suppress fungal garden parasites by secretion of antibiotics. However, more recently, a wider role for these bacteria has been suggested from research revealing their generalist anti-fungal activity. Here we show, for the first time, evidence for a role of these bacteria in the defence of young worker ants against a fungal entomopathogen. Experimental removal of the bacterial bio-film using an antibiotic resulted in a significant increase in susceptibility of worker ants to infection by the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae. This is the first direct evidence for the advantage of maintaining a bacterial bio-film on the cuticle as a defensive strategy of the ants themselves and not exclusively for protection of the fungus garden. PMID:22130174

  4. The fungal symbiont of Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants expresses the full spectrum of genes to degrade cellulose and other plant cell wall polysaccharides

    PubMed Central

    2013-01-01

    Background The fungus gardens of leaf-cutting ants are natural biomass conversion systems that turn fresh plant forage into fungal biomass to feed the farming ants. However, the decomposition potential of the symbiont Leucocoprinus gongylophorus for processing polysaccharides has remained controversial. We therefore used quantifiable DeepSAGE technology to obtain mRNA expression patterns of genes coding for secreted enzymes from top, middle, and bottom sections of a laboratory fungus-garden of Acromyrmex echinatior leaf-cutting ants. Results A broad spectrum of biomass-conversion-relevant enzyme genes was found to be expressed in situ: cellulases (GH3, GH5, GH6, GH7, AA9 [formerly GH61]), hemicellulases (GH5, GH10, CE1, GH12, GH74), pectinolytic enzymes (CE8, GH28, GH43, PL1, PL3, PL4), glucoamylase (GH15), α-galactosidase (GH27), and various cutinases, esterases, and lipases. In general, expression of these genes reached maximal values in the bottom section of the garden, particularly for an AA9 lytic polysaccharide monooxygenase and for a GH5 (endocellulase), a GH7 (reducing end-acting cellobiohydrolase), and a GH10 (xylanase), all containing a carbohydrate binding module that specifically binds cellulose (CBM1). Although we did not directly quantify enzyme abundance, the profile of expressed cellulase genes indicates that both hydrolytic and oxidative degradation is taking place. Conclusions The fungal symbiont of Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants can degrade a large range of plant polymers, but the conversion of cellulose, hemicellulose, and part of the pectin occurs primarily towards the end of the decomposition process, i.e. in the bottom section of the fungus garden. These conversions are likely to provide nutrients for the fungus itself rather than for the ants, whose colony growth and reproductive success are limited by proteins obtained from ingesting fungal gongylidia. These specialized hyphal tips are hardly produced in the bottom section of fungus gardens

  5. Magnetic anisotropy and organization of nanoparticles in heads and antennae of neotropical leaf-cutter ants, Atta colombica

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Oriented magnetic nanoparticles have been suggested as a good candidate for a magnetic sensor in ants. Behavioral evidence for a magnetic compass in Neotropical leafcutter ants, Atta colombica (Formicidae: Attini), motivated a study of the arrangement of magnetic particles in the ants’ four major bo...

  6. Do leaf-cutter ants Atta colombica orient their path-integrated, home vector with a magnetic compass?

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Leaf-cutter ants Atta colombica forage over 250 m in structurally-complex, Neotropical rainforests that occlude sun or polarized light cues. Night foraging makes the use of celestial cues and landmarks all the more difficult. We investigated the directional cues used by leaf-cutter ants to orient h...

  7. Foliar Substrate Affects Cuticular Hydrocarbon Profiles and Intraspecific Aggression in the Leafcutter Ant Atta sexdens

    PubMed Central

    Valadares, Lohan; Nascimento, Daniela; Nascimento, Fabio S.

    2015-01-01

    Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) are traditionally considered to be one of the most important chemical cues used in the nestmate recognition process of social hymenopterans. However, it has been suggested that in the leafcutter ant genus Atta, it is not the CHCs, but the alarm pheromone that is involved in the nestmate recognition process. In this study we used a laboratory population of Atta sexdens to explore the association between their CHC profile variation and intraspecific aggression. In the first part of the experiment, four colonies were divided into two groups with distinct diets to stimulate differentiation of their CHC profiles. In the second part of the experiment, all colonies received the same diet to examine resemblance of chemical profiles. At the end of each part of the experiment we extracted the CHCs from workers. The results demonstrated that colonies that shared the same food resource had similar cuticular hydrocarbon profiles. Furthermore, colonies were significantly more aggressive towards conspecifics that used a different foliar substrate and consequently had greater differences in their cuticular chemical composition. This study suggests that the CHC profiles of A. sexdens can be affected by the foliar substrates used, and that the CHCs are used in the nestmate recognition process of this species. PMID:26463072

  8. Ricinus communis and Jatropha curcas (Euphorbiaceae) seed oil toxicity against Atta sexdens rubropilosa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Alonso, E C; Santos, D Y A C

    2013-04-01

    Leaf-cutting ants are the main herbivores in the New World tropics. Although the toxicity of seed oils against these ants has been poorly investigated, previous results revealed that seed oils exert considerable toxic activity against these insects. This paper analyzes the toxic action and deterrent properties of castor oil, Ricinus communis L., and physic nut oil, Jatropha curcas L., against workers of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa reared in laboratory. Toxic effect was analyzed by feeding insects artificial diets supplemented with different oil concentrations and direct contact with the two oils. Deterrent activity was assessed by measuring the frequency of attendance to diets during the first 48 h of the ingestion bioassay. Castor oil at 10 and 30 mg/ml and physic nut oil at 5, 10, and 30 mg/ml were toxic by ingestion. In the direct contact bioassay, toxicity was observed for physic nut oil at 0.1 and 0.2 mg/ml, whereas castor oil exerted toxic effects only when the highest concentration was applied. Also, castor oil had a more pronounced deterrent effect against the leaf-cutting ant, compared with physic nut oil. Methods to apply these oils to control these insects are discussed. PMID:23786062

  9. The Mitochondrial Genome of the Leaf-Cutter Ant Atta laevigata: A Mitogenome with a Large Number of Intergenic Spacers

    PubMed Central

    Rodovalho, Cynara de Melo; Lyra, Mariana Lúcio; Ferro, Milene; Bacci, Maurício

    2014-01-01

    In this paper we describe the nearly complete mitochondrial genome of the leaf-cutter ant Atta laevigata, assembled using transcriptomic libraries from Sanger and Illumina next generation sequencing (NGS), and PCR products. This mitogenome was found to be very large (18,729 bp), given the presence of 30 non-coding intergenic spacers (IGS) spanning 3,808 bp. A portion of the putative control region remained unsequenced. The gene content and organization correspond to that inferred for the ancestral pancrustacea, except for two tRNA gene rearrangements that have been described previously in other ants. The IGS were highly variable in length and dispersed through the mitogenome. This pattern was also found for the other hymenopterans in particular for the monophyletic Apocrita. These spacers with unknown function may be valuable for characterizing genome evolution and distinguishing closely related species and individuals. NGS provided better coverage than Sanger sequencing, especially for tRNA and ribosomal subunit genes, thus facilitating efforts to fill in sequence gaps. The results obtained showed that data from transcriptomic libraries contain valuable information for assembling mitogenomes. The present data also provide a source of molecular markers that will be very important for improving our understanding of genomic evolutionary processes and phylogenetic relationships among hymenopterans. PMID:24828084

  10. Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Foraging Networks in the Grass-Cutting Ant Atta bisphaerica Forel, 1908 (Formicidae, Attini)

    PubMed Central

    Lopes, Juliane F. S.; Brugger, Mariana S.; Menezes, Regys B.; Camargo, Roberto S.; Forti, Luiz Carlos; Fourcassié, Vincent

    2016-01-01

    Foraging networks are a key element for ant colonies because they facilitate the flow of resources from the environment to the nest and they allow the sharing of information among individuals. Here we report the results of an 8-month survey, extending from November 2009 to June 2010, of the foraging networks of four mature colonies of Atta bisphaerica, a species of grass-cutting ant which is considered as a pest in Brazil. We found that the distribution of foraging effort was strongly influenced by the landscape features around the nests, in particular by the permanently wet parts of the pasture in which the nests were located. The foraging networks consisted of underground tunnels which opened on average at 21.5m from the nests and of above-ground physical trails that reached on average 4.70m in length. The use of the foraging networks was highly dynamic, with few sections of the networks used for long periods of time. Three different phases, which could be linked to the seasonal change in the local rainfall regime, could be identified in the construction and use of the foraging networks. The first phase corresponded to the beginning of the rainy season and was characterized by a low foraging activity, as well as a low excavation and physical trail construction effort. The second phase, which began in February and extended up to the end of the humid season at the end of March, was characterized by an intense excavation and trail construction effort, resulting in an expansion of the foraging networks. Finally, in the third phase, which corresponded to the beginning of the dry season, the excavation and trail construction effort leveled off or decreased while foraging activity kept increasing. Our hypothesis is that ants could benefit from the underground tunnels and physical trails built during the humid season to maintain their foraging activity at a high level. PMID:26752413

  11. Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Foraging Networks in the Grass-Cutting Ant Atta bisphaerica Forel, 1908 (Formicidae, Attini).

    PubMed

    Lopes, Juliane F S; Brugger, Mariana S; Menezes, Regys B; Camargo, Roberto S; Forti, Luiz Carlos; Fourcassié, Vincent

    2016-01-01

    Foraging networks are a key element for ant colonies because they facilitate the flow of resources from the environment to the nest and they allow the sharing of information among individuals. Here we report the results of an 8-month survey, extending from November 2009 to June 2010, of the foraging networks of four mature colonies of Atta bisphaerica, a species of grass-cutting ant which is considered as a pest in Brazil. We found that the distribution of foraging effort was strongly influenced by the landscape features around the nests, in particular by the permanently wet parts of the pasture in which the nests were located. The foraging networks consisted of underground tunnels which opened on average at 21.5m from the nests and of above-ground physical trails that reached on average 4.70m in length. The use of the foraging networks was highly dynamic, with few sections of the networks used for long periods of time. Three different phases, which could be linked to the seasonal change in the local rainfall regime, could be identified in the construction and use of the foraging networks. The first phase corresponded to the beginning of the rainy season and was characterized by a low foraging activity, as well as a low excavation and physical trail construction effort. The second phase, which began in February and extended up to the end of the humid season at the end of March, was characterized by an intense excavation and trail construction effort, resulting in an expansion of the foraging networks. Finally, in the third phase, which corresponded to the beginning of the dry season, the excavation and trail construction effort leveled off or decreased while foraging activity kept increasing. Our hypothesis is that ants could benefit from the underground tunnels and physical trails built during the humid season to maintain their foraging activity at a high level. PMID:26752413

  12. Paleodistributions and Comparative Molecular Phylogeography of Leafcutter Ants (Atta spp.) Provide New Insight into the Origins of Amazonian Diversity

    PubMed Central

    Solomon, Scott E.; Bacci, Mauricio; Martins, Joaquim; Vinha, Giovanna Gonçalves; Mueller, Ulrich G.

    2008-01-01

    The evolutionary basis for high species diversity in tropical regions of the world remains unresolved. Much research has focused on the biogeography of speciation in the Amazon Basin, which harbors the greatest diversity of terrestrial life. The leading hypotheses on allopatric diversification of Amazonian taxa are the Pleistocene refugia, marine incursion, and riverine barrier hypotheses. Recent advances in the fields of phylogeography and species-distribution modeling permit a modern re-evaluation of these hypotheses. Our approach combines comparative, molecular phylogeographic analyses using mitochondrial DNA sequence data with paleodistribution modeling of species ranges at the last glacial maximum (LGM) to test these hypotheses for three co-distributed species of leafcutter ants (Atta spp.). The cumulative results of all tests reject every prediction of the riverine barrier hypothesis, but are unable to reject several predictions of the Pleistocene refugia and marine incursion hypotheses. Coalescent dating analyses suggest that population structure formed recently (Pleistocene-Pliocene), but are unable to reject the possibility that Miocene events may be responsible for structuring populations in two of the three species examined. The available data therefore suggest that either marine incursions in the Miocene or climate changes during the Pleistocene—or both—have shaped the population structure of the three species examined. Our results also reconceptualize the traditional Pleistocene refugia hypothesis, and offer a novel framework for future research into the area. PMID:18648512

  13. Electrophysiological responses of Atta sexdens rubropilosa workers to essential oils of eucalyptus and its chemical composition.

    PubMed

    Batista-Pereira, Luciane G; Fernandes, João B; da Silva, M Fátima G E; Vieira, Paulo C; Bueno, Odair C; Corrêa, Arlene G

    2006-01-01

    The leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel, 1908 is the most harmful of the Eucalyptus pests, causing severe losses in wood production through defoliation. Various strategies have been tried and effort spent on the development of methods to control this pest, however no practical and environmentally acceptable one currently exists. In this work the chemical composition of the essential oil of seven Eucalyptus species was identified and the selectivity and sensitivity of antennal receptors of A. sexdens rubropilosa workers to the volatile compounds were determined using the electroantennographic technique (EAG and GC-EAD). Analysis by GC-EAD showed in E. cloesiana and E. maculata, respectively, seventeen and sixteen terpenes that elicited responses in ant workers' antennae, indicating the potential role of the essential oils as allelochemicals that determine the choice of the foraging material. PMID:17137124

  14. Magnetic anisotropy and organization of nanoparticles in heads and antennae of neotropical leaf-cutter ants, Atta colombica

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Alves, Odivaldo C.; Srygley, Robert B.; Riveros, Andre J.; Barbosa, Marcia A.; Esquivel, Darci M. S.; Wajnberg, Eliane

    2014-10-01

    Oriented magnetic nanoparticles have been suggested as a good candidate for a magnetic sensor in ants. Behavioural evidence for a magnetic compass in neotropical leaf-cutter ants, Atta colombica (Formicidae: Attini), motivated a study of the arrangement of magnetic particles in the ants’ four major body parts by measuring the angular dependence of the ferromagnetic resonance spectra at room temperature. Spectra of the thoraces and those of the abdomens showed no significant angular dependence, while those of the antennae and those of the heads exhibited a periodic dependence relative to the magnetic field. Fitting of the angular dependence of the resonant field resulted in an unexpected magnetic anisotropy with uniaxial symmetry. High values of the first order anisotropy constant were observed for the magnetic material in antennae (-2.9  ×  105 erg cm-3) and heads (-1  ×  106 erg cm-3) as compared to body parts of other social insects. In addition, the magnitude of the anisotropy in the heads was comparable to that observed in magnetite nanoparticles of 4-5 nm diameter. For the antennae, the mean angle of the particles’ easy magnetization axis (EA) was estimated to be 41° relative to the straightened antenna’s long axis. For the heads, EA was approximately 60° relative to the head’s axis running from midway between the spines to the clypeus. These physical characteristics indicate organized magnetic nanoparticles with a potential for directional sensitivity, which is an important feature of magnetic compasses.

  15. Do leaf-cutter ants Atta colombica obtain their magnetic sensors from soil?

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    How animals sense, process and use magnetic information has remained largely elusive. In insects, ferromagnetic particles are candidates for a magnetic sensor. Recent studies suggest that ferromagnetic minerals from soil can be incorporated into the antennae of the migratory ant Pachycondola margina...

  16. Selective isolation of dematiaceous fungi from the workers of Atta laevigata (Formicidae: Attini).

    PubMed

    Guedes, F L A; Attili-Angelis, D; Pagnocca, F C

    2012-01-01

    Leaf-cutting ants (Formicidae: Attini) are considered pests in agriculture for their impact in human crops, as they utilize leaf fragments to raise their fungal mutualist (Agaricales: Lepiotaceae). Basically, the basidiomycetous fungus is cultivated to supply food to adult workers and broads; in return, the ants protect it against natural enemies. However, recent studies have claimed that other microorganisms are associated to ant nests where a wide range of interactions may take place. To investigate the occurrence of dematiaceous fungi on the cuticle of Atta laevigata ants, 30 workers were sampled from an adult nest located in the surroundings of the Center for the Studies of Social Insects, UNESP-Rio Claro, SP, Brazil. The use of selective techniques to avoid high-sporulation fungi has been recommended and was tested in this study. To favor the isolation of the desired fungi, heads and cuticle scrapings of ant bodies were inoculated on Mycosel agar and incubated for 3 weeks at 35°C. Morphological and molecular methods were used to identify the filamentous fungi recovered. From 56 isolates, 19 were hyaline filamentous species, and among the remaining 37, some are mentioned as phyto-associated fungi like Alternaria arborescens, Bipolaris sorokiniana, Bipolaris eleusines, Bipolaris zeae, Curvularia trifolii, and Paraphaeosphaeria michotii. These species are reported from A. laevigata bodies for the first time. None of the isolation trials revealed the presence of the parasite Escovopsis or entomopathogenic fungi. The possible spread of the fungi in nature by the ants is discussed. PMID:22160859

  17. Branch Width and Height Influence the Incorporation of Branches into Foraging Trails and Travel Speed in Leafcutter Ants Atta cephalotes (L.) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Freeman, B M; Chaves-Campos, J

    2016-06-01

    Fallen branches are often incorporated into Atta cephalotes (L.) foraging trails to optimize leaf tissue transport rates and economize trail maintenance. Recent studies in lowlands show laden A. cephalotes travel faster across fallen branches than on ground, but more slowly ascending or descending a branch. The latter is likely because (1) it is difficult to travel up or downhill and (2) bottlenecks occur when branches are narrower than preceding trail. Hence, both branch height and width should determine whether branches decrease net travel times, but no study has evaluated it yet. Laden A. cephalotes were timed in relation to branch width and height across segments preceding, accessing, across, and departing a fallen branch in the highlands of Costa Rica. Ants traveled faster on branches than on cleared segments of trunk-trail, but accelerated when ascending or descending the branch-likely because of the absence of bottlenecks during the day in the highlands. Branch size did not affect ant speed in observed branches; the majority of which (22/24) varied from 11 to 120 mm in both height and width (average 66 mm in both cases). To determine whether ants exclude branches outside this range, ants were offered the choice between branches within this range and branches that were taller/wider than 120 mm. Ants strongly preferred the former. Our results indicate that A. cephalotes can adjust their speed to compensate for the difficulty of traveling on branch slopes. More generally, branch size should be considered when studying ant foraging efficiency. PMID:26830434

  18. Comparison of radial growth rate of the mutualistic fungus of Atta sexdens rubropilosa forel in two culture media

    PubMed Central

    Miyashira, C.H.; Tanigushi, D.G.; Gugliotta, A.M.; Santos, D.Y.A.C.

    2010-01-01

    In vitro culture of the mutualistic fungus of leaf-cutting ants is troublesome due to its low growth rate, which leads to storage problems and contaminants accumulation. This paper aims at comparing the radial growth rate of the mutualistic fungus of Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel in two different culture media (Pagnocca B and MEA LP). Although total MEA LP radial growth was greater all along the bioassay, no significant difference was detected between growth efficiencies of the two media. Previous evidences of low growth rate for this fungus were confirmed. Since these data cannot point greater efficiency of one culture medium over the other, MEA LP medium is indicated for in vitro studies with this mutualistic fungus due its simpler composition and translucent color, making the analysis easier. PMID:24031524

  19. Spatial distribution and fruiting phenology of Protium heptaphyllum (Burseraceae) determine the design of the underground foraging system of Atta sexdens L. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    da Silva, P S D; Leal, I R; Wirth, R; Tabarelli, M

    2012-08-01

    Leaf-cutting ants have long been recognized to forage via complex trail systems but the nature and the ecological drivers of the different foraging strategies adopted remain a key topic. Here, we described the spatiotemporal use of belowground foraging galleries by Atta sexdens L. in the Brazilian Atlantic forest, and examined the adaptive advantages of this foraging strategy. Protium heptaphyllum adult trees (DBH > 10 cm), seed/seedling clumps and ant gallery entrances were mapped across two 1-ha plots during two consecutive fruiting seasons (2002 and 2004). We recorded 75 ca. 40 cm deep gallery entrances beneath 26 P. heptaphyllum trees at nest distances ranging from 14 to 57 m. Furthermore, gallery abundance and galleries associated with seed/seedling clumps correlated positively with P. heptaphyllum density. Our results indicate that A. sexdens was able to set a permanent system of underground galleries targeting P. heptaphyllum trees and their seeds on the ground. Such network of galleries was spatially arranged according to both the spatial distribution and abundance of P. heptaphyllum trees in a way that most gallery entrances were disposed beneath or in close periphery of P. heptaphyllum crowns. Our findings suggest that underground trail systems shaped by fruit resources represent a foraging strategy clearly more common than existing literature on the subject would suggest. In addition, it reinforces the notion that the spatiotemporal availability of resources combined with predation risk largely influence trail configurations as well as overall foraging strategies adopted by leaf-cutting ants. PMID:23950059

  20. Uninformed sacrifice: Evidence against long-range alarm transmission in foraging ants exposed to localized abduction

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Tejera, F.; Reyes, A.; Altshuler, E.

    2016-07-01

    It is well established that danger information can be transmitted by ants through relatively small distances, provoking either a state of alarm when they move away from potentially dangerous stimulus, or charge toward it aggressively. There is almost no knowledge if danger information can be transmitted along large distances. In this paper, we abduct leaf cutting ants of the species Atta insularis while they forage in their natural environment at a certain point of the foraging line, so ants make a "U" turn to escape from the danger zone and go back to the nest. Our results strongly suggest that those ants do not transmit "danger information" to other nestmates marching towards the abduction area. The individualistic behavior of the ants returning from the danger zone results in a depression of the foraging activity due to the systematic sacrifice of non-informed individuals.

  1. Rapid shifts in Atta cephalotes fungus-garden enzyme activity after a change in fungal substrate (Attini, Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Kooij, P W; Schiøtt, M; Boomsma, J J; De Fine Licht, H H

    2011-05-01

    Fungus gardens of the basidiomycete Leucocoprinus gongylophorus sustain large colonies of leaf-cutting ants by degrading the plant material collected by the ants. Recent studies have shown that enzyme activity in these gardens is primarily targeted toward starch, proteins and the pectin matrix associated with cell walls, rather than toward structural cell wall components such as cellulose and hemicelluloses. Substrate constituents are also known to be sequentially degraded in different sections of the fungus garden. To test the plasticity in the extracellular expression of fungus-garden enzymes, we measured the changes in enzyme activity after a controlled shift in fungal substrate offered to six laboratory colonies of Atta cephalotes. An ant diet consisting exclusively of grains of parboiled rice rapidly increased the activity of endo-proteinases and some of the pectinases attacking the backbone structure of pectin molecules, relative to a pure diet of bramble leaves, and this happened predominantly in the most recently established top sections of fungus gardens. However, fungus-garden amylase activity did not significantly increase despite the substantial increase in starch availability from the rice diet, relative to the leaf diet controls. Enzyme activity in the older, bottom sections of fungus gardens decreased, indicating a faster processing of the rice substrate compared to the leaf diet. These results suggest that leaf-cutting ant fungus gardens can rapidly adjust enzyme activity to provide a better match with substrate availability and that excess starch that is not protected by cell walls may be digested by the ants rather than by the fungus-garden symbiont. ELECTRONIC SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL: The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00040-010-0127-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users. PMID:21475686

  2. The prominent role of fungi and fungal enzymes in the ant-fungus biomass conversion symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Lange, L; Grell, M N

    2014-06-01

    Molecular studies have added significantly to understanding of the role of fungi and fungal enzymes in the efficient biomass conversion, which takes place in the fungus garden of leaf-cutting ants. It is now clear that the fungal symbiont expresses the full spectrum of genes for degrading cellulose and other plant cell wall polysaccharides. Since the start of the genomics era, numerous interesting studies have especially focused on evolutionary, molecular, and organismal aspects of the biological and biochemical functions of the symbiosis between leaf-cutting ants (Atta spp. and Acromyrmex spp.) and their fungal symbiont Leucoagaricus gongylophorus. Macroscopic observations of the fungus-farming ant colony inherently depict the ants as the leading part of the symbiosis (the myrmicocentric approach, overshadowing the mycocentric aspects). However, at the molecular level, it is fungal enzymes that enable the ants to access the nutrition embedded in recalcitrant plant biomass. Our hypothesis is that the evolutionary events that established fungus-farming practice were predisposed by a fascinating fungal evolution toward increasing attractiveness to ants. This resulted in the ants allowing the fungus to grow in the nests and began to supply plant materials for more fungal growth. Molecular studies also confirm that specialized fungal structures, the gongylidia, with high levels of proteins and rich blend of enzymes, are essential for symbiosis. Harvested and used as ant feed, the gongylidia are the key factor for sustaining the highly complex leaf-cutting ant colony. This microbial upgrade of fresh leaves to protein-enriched animal feed can serve as inspiration for modern biorefinery technology. PMID:24728757

  3. Ultrastructural studies of the mandibular glands of the minima, media and soldier ants of Atta sexdens rubropilosa (Forel 1908) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Pavon, Lorena Favaro; Mathias, Maria Izabel Camargo

    2005-01-01

    The mandibular glands of Hymenoptera are structures associated with the mandibles and constitute part of the salivary glands system. Histological studies in workers of Atta sexdens rubropilosa revealed that this gland contains two portions: a secretory and a storage portion or reservoir. Both portions are connected by means of canaliculi. The object of the present work was the study of the ultratructure of the mandibular glands of minima, media and soldier ant of A. s. rubropilosa by TEM techniques. The glands, in the three castes studied, possess a reservoir, constituted by a simple pavementous epithelium surrounded by the cuticular intima and the secretory portion is constituted by cells of rounded shape. The secretory cells, mainly of minima and soldier, were rich in smooth endoplasmic reticulum. The media worker and soldier presented a large number of mitochondria, of varying shape. Well-developed Golgi complexes were also present in the soldiers. The secretory cells in minima, media and soldier were provided with collecting intracellular canaliculi, which were linked to the reservoir through the extracellular portion. The cytoplasm of the canaliculi-forming cell was poor in organelles. In the individuals of the three castes of A. s. rubropilosa, the presence of lipid secretion granules suggested, beyond the other functions, also a possible pheromonal action. The different roles executed by the different insect castes are directly dependent on the glandular products and, consequently, on the secretory cellular characteristics. PMID:15935305

  4. Cellulose-Enriched Microbial Communities from Leaf-Cutter Ant (Atta colombica) Refuse Dumps Vary in Taxonomic Composition and Degradation Ability

    DOE PAGESBeta

    Lewin, Gina R.; Johnson, Amanda L.; Soto, Rolando D. Moreira; Perry, Kailene; Book, Adam J.; Horn, Heidi A.; Pinto-Tomás, Adrián A.; Currie, Cameron R.

    2016-03-21

    Deconstruction of the cellulose in plant cell walls is critical for carbon flow through ecosystems and for the production of sustainable cellulosic biofuels. Our understanding of cellulose deconstruction is largely limited to the study of microbes in isolation, but in nature, this process is driven by microbes within complex communities. In Neotropical forests, microbes in leaf-cutter ant refuse dumps are important for carbon turnover. These dumps consist of decaying plant material and a diverse bacterial community, as shown here by electron microscopy. To study the portion of the community capable of cellulose degradation, we performed enrichments on cellulose using materialmore » from five Atta colombica refuse dumps. The ability of enriched communities to degrade cellulose varied significantly across refuse dumps. 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of enriched samples identified that the community structure correlated with refuse dump and with degradation ability. Overall, samples were dominated by Bacteroidetes, Gammaproteobacteria, and Betaproteobacteria. Half of abundant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) across samples were classified within general containing known cellulose degraders, including Acidovorax, the most abundant OTU detected across samples, which was positively correlated with cellulolytic ability. Lastly, a representative Acidovorax strain was isolated, but did not grow on cellulose alone. Phenotypic and compositional analyses of enrichment cultures, such as those presented here, help link community composition with cellulolytic ability and provide insight into the complexity of community-based cellulose degradation.« less

  5. Cellulose-Enriched Microbial Communities from Leaf-Cutter Ant (Atta colombica) Refuse Dumps Vary in Taxonomic Composition and Degradation Ability

    PubMed Central

    Lewin, Gina R.; Johnson, Amanda L.; Soto, Rolando D. Moreira; Perry, Kailene; Book, Adam J.; Horn, Heidi A.; Pinto-Tomás, Adrián A.; Currie, Cameron R.

    2016-01-01

    Deconstruction of the cellulose in plant cell walls is critical for carbon flow through ecosystems and for the production of sustainable cellulosic biofuels. Our understanding of cellulose deconstruction is largely limited to the study of microbes in isolation, but in nature, this process is driven by microbes within complex communities. In Neotropical forests, microbes in leaf-cutter ant refuse dumps are important for carbon turnover. These dumps consist of decaying plant material and a diverse bacterial community, as shown here by electron microscopy. To study the portion of the community capable of cellulose degradation, we performed enrichments on cellulose using material from five Atta colombica refuse dumps. The ability of enriched communities to degrade cellulose varied significantly across refuse dumps. 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of enriched samples identified that the community structure correlated with refuse dump and with degradation ability. Overall, samples were dominated by Bacteroidetes, Gammaproteobacteria, and Betaproteobacteria. Half of abundant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) across samples were classified within genera containing known cellulose degraders, including Acidovorax, the most abundant OTU detected across samples, which was positively correlated with cellulolytic ability. A representative Acidovorax strain was isolated, but did not grow on cellulose alone. Phenotypic and compositional analyses of enrichment cultures, such as those presented here, help link community composition with cellulolytic ability and provide insight into the complexity of community-based cellulose degradation. PMID:26999749

  6. Cellulose-Enriched Microbial Communities from Leaf-Cutter Ant (Atta colombica) Refuse Dumps Vary in Taxonomic Composition and Degradation Ability.

    PubMed

    Lewin, Gina R; Johnson, Amanda L; Soto, Rolando D Moreira; Perry, Kailene; Book, Adam J; Horn, Heidi A; Pinto-Tomás, Adrián A; Currie, Cameron R

    2016-01-01

    Deconstruction of the cellulose in plant cell walls is critical for carbon flow through ecosystems and for the production of sustainable cellulosic biofuels. Our understanding of cellulose deconstruction is largely limited to the study of microbes in isolation, but in nature, this process is driven by microbes within complex communities. In Neotropical forests, microbes in leaf-cutter ant refuse dumps are important for carbon turnover. These dumps consist of decaying plant material and a diverse bacterial community, as shown here by electron microscopy. To study the portion of the community capable of cellulose degradation, we performed enrichments on cellulose using material from five Atta colombica refuse dumps. The ability of enriched communities to degrade cellulose varied significantly across refuse dumps. 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of enriched samples identified that the community structure correlated with refuse dump and with degradation ability. Overall, samples were dominated by Bacteroidetes, Gammaproteobacteria, and Betaproteobacteria. Half of abundant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) across samples were classified within genera containing known cellulose degraders, including Acidovorax, the most abundant OTU detected across samples, which was positively correlated with cellulolytic ability. A representative Acidovorax strain was isolated, but did not grow on cellulose alone. Phenotypic and compositional analyses of enrichment cultures, such as those presented here, help link community composition with cellulolytic ability and provide insight into the complexity of community-based cellulose degradation. PMID:26999749

  7. Field evaluation of potential of alarm pheromone compounds to enhance baits for control of grass-cutting ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Hughes, William O H; Howse, Philip E; Vilela, Evaldo F; Knapp, Jenny J; Goulson, Dave

    2002-06-01

    Leaf-cutting ants are important economic pests of the Neotropics, and the most common method of control involves the use of insecticidal baits. Baits that are currently available exhibit low attractiveness to grass-cutting species, thus there is a need to develop improved baits. The potential for using alarm pheromone compounds to enhance the attractiveness and subsequent harvest of baits was examined for two economically important species of grass-cutting ant, Atta bisphaerica (Forel) and Atta capiguara (Goncalves). Compounds of the alarm pheromone were applied to rubber septa that were then sealed inside plastic sachets together with citrus pulp-based bait. The best candidate compound for bait enhancement was 4-methyl-3-heptanone. This compound significantly increased the attractiveness of bait sachets to both species. It also appeared to improve the discovery of nearby unenhanced sachets. However, 4-methyl-3-heptanone resulted in only a slight and non-significant improvement in bait harvest. Enhanced and unenhanced bait sachets were applied at a number of positions to obtain an improvement in harvest, but without success. The possible reasons for the lack of an enhancement of harvest and the potential for using alarm pheromone compounds as leaf-cutting ant bait enhancers are discussed. PMID:12075997

  8. Natural enemies of Atta vollenweideri (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) leaf-cutter ants negatively affected by synthetic pesticides, chlorpyrifos and fipronil.

    PubMed

    Guillade, Andrea C; Folgarait, Patricia J

    2014-02-01

    In southern South America, Ada vollenweideri Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) is a significant pest of several crops and forestry, also considered to reduce the carrying capacity of pastures. The most usual control method used in Latin America is the application of synthetic pesticides, mainly chlorpyrifos and fipronil. However, no studies have assessed the effects of these agrochemicals on natural enemies of ants. We aimed to evaluate the efficiency of these pesticides on leaf-cutter ants' control and to test their effect on phorid fly parasitoids. Chlorpyrifos failed to exert complete control over ant colonies in the field and was gravely detrimental to specific parasitoids, reducing their percentage of parasitism, pupal survivorship, and adult longevity. Fipronil, however, exerted complete control over the treated colonies. Laboratory tests using both pesticides, either on ants from foraging trails or on pupariae, showed that chlorpyrifos and fipronil decreased larval and pupal survivorship, as well as adult longevity of parasitoids, in comparison to controls. In conclusion, these pesticides will likely affect parasitoids with regard to their reproductive capacity, leading to the decreased levels of natural parasitism observed in the field after treatments. We discuss why neither pesticide should be taken into account for integrated pest management programs. PMID:24665691

  9. Evolutionarily advanced ant farmers rear polyploid fungal crops.

    PubMed

    Kooij, P W; Aanen, D K; Schiøtt, M; Boomsma, J J

    2015-11-01

    Innovative evolutionary developments are often related to gene or genome duplications. The crop fungi of attine fungus-growing ants are suspected to have enhanced genetic variation reminiscent of polyploidy, but this has never been quantified with cytological data and genetic markers. We estimated the number of nuclei per fungal cell for 42 symbionts reared by 14 species of Panamanian fungus-growing ants. This showed that domesticated symbionts of higher attine ants are polykaryotic with 7-17 nuclei per cell, whereas nonspecialized crops of lower attines are dikaryotic similar to most free-living basidiomycete fungi. We then investigated how putative higher genetic diversity is distributed across polykaryotic mycelia, using microsatellite loci and evaluating models assuming that all nuclei are either heterogeneously haploid or homogeneously polyploid. Genetic variation in the polykaryotic symbionts of the basal higher attine genera Trachymyrmex and Sericomyrmex was only slightly enhanced, but the evolutionarily derived crop fungi of Atta and Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants had much higher genetic variation. Our opposite ploidy models indicated that the symbionts of Trachymyrmex and Sericomyrmex are likely to be lowly and facultatively polyploid (just over two haplotypes on average), whereas Atta and Acromyrmex symbionts are highly and obligatorily polyploid (ca. 5-7 haplotypes on average). This stepwise transition appears analogous to ploidy variation in plants and fungi domesticated by humans and in fungi domesticated by termites and plants, where gene or genome duplications were typically associated with selection for higher productivity, but allopolyploid chimerism was incompatible with sexual reproduction. PMID:26265100

  10. Does Diatomaceous Earth Control Leaf-Cutter Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Eucalyptus Plantations?

    PubMed

    Ferreira-Filho, Pedro J; Wilcken, Carlos F; Neves, Daniela A; Pogetto, Mario H F A D; Carmo, Janaina B; Guerreiro, Julio C; Serrão, José E; Zanuncio, José C

    2015-06-01

    Genus Atta includes some of the most important Formicidae leaf cutter ants which cause extensive damage to the eucalyptus plantations. Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel, one of the chief pests in Brazilian reforestation, can restrict and reduce forest productivity by its intense and constant leaf-cutting activities on plants at all stages. Therefore, the demand for new products to control A. sexdens rubropilosa indicates the study of the utilization of the dry powder formulation of diatomaceous earth (DE) against this pest in the eucalyptus cultivars. The study was conducted using 120 colonies of A. sexdens rubropilosa in Eucalyptus grandis Hill ex. Maiden x Eucalyptus urophylla Blake (Myrtaceae) (urograndis) stand. The randomized block experimental design was used with six treatments (1, 10, 25, and 50 g/m2 of DE, 6.0 g/m2 sulfluramid bait per square meter of loose soil, and the control) with five replications, each with four colonies of this ant. Diatomaceous earth was applied to the active A. sexdens rubropilosa ant holes, and the sulfluramid bait was applied in bulk in a localized manner. The control efficacy of A. sexdens rubropilosa with DE was low, showing values similar to that of the control, and, for this reason, it cannot be used to control this ant. The bait with sulfluramid showed higher efficacy than those of the other treatments. PMID:26470237

  11. Broad Escovopsis-inhibition activity of Pseudonocardia associated with Trachymyrmex ants.

    PubMed

    Meirelles, Lucas A; Mendes, Thaís D; Solomon, Scott E; Bueno, Odair C; Pagnocca, Fernando C; Rodrigues, Andre

    2014-08-01

    Attine ants maintain an association with antibiotic-producing Actinobacteria found on their integuments. Evidence supports these bacteria as auxiliary symbionts that help ants to defend the fungus gardens against pathogens. Using Pseudonocardia strains isolated from Trachymyrmex ants, we tested whether the inhibitory capabilities of such strains are restricted to Escovopsis parasites that infect gardens of this ant genus. Twelve Pseudonocardia strains were tested in in vitro bioassays against Escovopsis strains derived from fungus gardens of Trachymyrmex (n = 1) and leaf-cutting ants (n = 3). Overall, significant differences were observed in the mycelial growth among each Escovopsis strain in the presence of Pseudonocardia. Particularly, Escovopsis from Acromyrmex and Trachymyrmex were the most inhibited strains in comparison to Escovopsis isolated from Atta. This result suggests that Pseudonocardia isolated from Trachymyrmex possibly secrete antimicrobial compounds effective against diverse Escovopsis strains. The fact that Trachymyrmex ants harbour Pseudonocardia strains with broad spectrum of activity and its defensive role on attine gardens are discussed. PMID:24992532

  12. Ant interactions with soil organisms and associated semiochemicals.

    PubMed

    Vander Meer, Robert

    2012-06-01

    This review focuses on the semiochemical interactions between ants and their soil environment. Ants occupy virtually every ecological niche and have evolved mechanisms to not just cope with, but also manipulate soil organisms. The metapleural gland, specific to ants was thought to be the major source of semiochemical antimicrobial compounds targeting general or specific deleterious microbes. The extremely diverse variety of semiochemicals and their sources with antimicrobial activity or potential activity is highlighted. The leaf-cutting ants and fire ant provide the most researched species, in part because they cause significant economic damage. The leaf-cutting ant is particularly interesting because researchers have uncovered unexpected interactions between leaf-cutting ant fungal farm, parasitic fungi, bacteria, yeasts, and ant defensive semiochemicals. These complex relationships highlight the multidimensional aspects of ants and the soil environment in which they live. PMID:22653568

  13. Ants can learn to forage on one-way trails.

    PubMed

    Ribeiro, Pedro Leite; Helene, André Frazão; Xavier, Gilberto; Navas, Carlos; Ribeiro, Fernando Leite

    2009-01-01

    The trails formed by many ant species between nest and food source are two-way roads on which outgoing and returning workers meet and touch each other all along. The way to get back home, after grasping a food load, is to take the same route on which they have arrived from the nest. In many species such trails are chemically marked by pheromones providing orientation cues for the ants to find their way. Other species rely on their vision and use landmarks as cues. We have developed a method to stop foraging ants from shuttling on two-way trails. The only way to forage is to take two separate roads, as they cannot go back on their steps after arriving at the food or at the nest. The condition qualifies as a problem because all their orientation cues -- chemical, visual or any other -- are disrupted, as all of them cannot but lead the ants back to the route on which they arrived. We have found that workers of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa can solve the problem. They could not only find the alternative way, but also used the unidirectional traffic system to forage effectively. We suggest that their ability is an evolutionary consequence of the need to deal with environmental irregularities that cannot be negotiated by means of excessively stereotyped behavior, and that it is but an example of a widespread phenomenon. We also suggest that our method can be adapted to other species, invertebrate and vertebrate, in the study of orientation, memory, perception, learning and communication. PMID:19337369

  14. Critical PO2 of developing Megachile rotundata, the alfalfa leaf-cutting bee

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    The alfalfa leaf-cutting bee, Megachile rotundata, is a solitary, cavity-nesting bee. Juvenile bees develop inside brood cells constructed out of leaf pieces. During development inside the brood cell, pre-pupae may experience hypoxic conditions from both the cavity nesting behavior and brood cell ...

  15. Interference of beta-eudesmol in nestmate recognition in Atta sexdens rubropilosa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Marinho, C G S; Della Lucia, T M C; Ribeiro, M M R; Magalhães, S T V; Guedes, R N C; Jham, G N

    2008-10-01

    Leaf-cutter ant species (Atta spp.) are key pests of cultivated crops in the Neotropics, and recent studies have demonstrated that workers of Atta spp., particularly of Atta sexdens rubropilosa, exhibit aggressive behavior among nestmates when in contact with the sesquiterpene beta-eudesmol, found in leaves of Eucalyptus maculata. However, the underlying mechanism sparking this behavior pattern has yet to be investigated. This work aimed to elucidate the mechanism by which this substance elicits aggression in workers of A. sexdens rubropilosa. The results, thus obtained, showed that beta-eudesmol is able to modify the chemical composition of the workers cuticle, impairing nestmate recognition, triggering alarm behavior and leading to nestmate aggression. PMID:18439338

  16. Evolutionary patterns of proteinase activity in attine ant fungus gardens

    PubMed Central

    2011-01-01

    Background Attine ants live in symbiosis with a basidiomycetous fungus that they rear on a substrate of plant material. This indirect herbivory implies that the symbiosis is likely to be nitrogen deprived, so that specific mechanisms may have evolved to enhance protein availability. We therefore hypothesized that fungal proteinase activity may have been under selection for efficiency and that different classes of proteinases might be involved. Results We determined proteinase activity profiles across a wide pH range for fungus gardens of 14 Panamanian species of fungus-growing ants, representing eight genera. We mapped these activity profiles on an independently obtained molecular phylogeny of the symbionts and show that total proteinase activity in lower attine symbionts peaks at ca. pH 6. The higher attine symbionts that have no known free-living relatives had much higher proteinase activities than the lower attine symbionts. Their total in vitro proteinase activity peaked at pH values around 5, which is close to the pH that the ants maintain in their fungus gardens, suggesting that the pH optimum of fungal proteinases may have changed after the irreversible domestication of evolutionary more derived fungal symbionts. This notion is also supported by buffering capacities of fungus gardens at pH 5.2 being remarkably high, and suggests that the fungal symbiont actively helps to maintain garden acidity at this specific level. Metalloproteinases dominated the activity profiles of lower attine gardens and may thus represent the ancestral type of proteinase production, whereas serine proteinase activity dominated the activity profiles of the higher attine gardens reared by Trachymyrmex and Sericomyrmex, suggesting that there may be trade-offs in the production of these enzyme classes. Remarkably, the single symbiont that is shared by species of the crown group of Atta and Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants mostly showed metalloproteinase activity, suggesting that recurrent

  17. Nectar and pollen sugars constituting larval provisions of the alfalfa leaf-cutting bee (Megachile rotundata) (Hymenoptera: Apiformes: Megachilidae)

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    As with most solitary bees, larvae of the alfalfa leaf-cutting bee, Megachile rotundata Fab., eat a diet blended from pollen and nectar of unknown proportions. In this study, we developed protocols to isolate and quantify sugars from larval provision masses. The method removed free amino acids tha...

  18. The effect of post-diapause development on respiratory function in the alfalfa leaf-cutting bee, Megachile rotundata

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Megachile rotundata, the alfalfa leaf-cutting bee, is a solitary, cavity-nesting bee. M. rotundata develop inside brood cells constructed from leaf pieces and sealed with the female’s saliva. During development, M. rotundata may experience hypoxic conditions from the cavity in which they reside; oxy...

  19. Comparison of axillary bud growth and patatin accumulation in potato leaf cuttings as assays for tuber induction

    NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)

    Wheeler, R. M.; Hannapel, D. J.; Tibbitts, T. W.

    1988-01-01

    Single-node leaf cuttings from potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.) cvs. Norland, Superior, Norchip, and Kennebec, were used to assess tuber induction in plants grown under 12, 16, and 20 h daily irradiation (400 micromol s-1 m-2 PPF). Leaf cuttings were taken from plants at four, six and 15 weeks after planting and cultured for 14 d in sand trays in humid environments. Tuber induction was determined by visually rating the type of growth at the attached axillary bud, and by measuring the accumulation of the major tuber protein, patatin, in the base of the petioles. Axillary buds from leaf cuttings of plants grown under the 12 h photoperiod consistently formed round, sessile tubers at the axils for all four cultivars at all harvests. Buds from cuttings of plants grown under the 16 and 20 h photoperiods exhibited mixed tuber, stolon, and leafy shoot growth. Patatin accumulation was highest in petioles of cuttings taken from 12 h plants for all cultivars at all harvests, with levels in 16 and 20 h cuttings approx. one-half that of the 12 h cuttings. Trends, both in visual ratings of axillary buds and in petiole patatin accumulation, followed the harvest index (ratio of tuber to total plant dry matter), suggesting that either method is an acceptable assay for tuber induction in the potato.

  20. Monoculture of Leafcutter Ant Gardens

    PubMed Central

    Mueller, Ulrich G.; Scott, Jarrod J.; Ishak, Heather D.; Cooper, Michael; Rodrigues, Andre

    2010-01-01

    Background Leafcutter ants depend on the cultivation of symbiotic Attamyces fungi for food, which are thought to be grown by the ants in single-strain, clonal monoculture throughout the hundreds to thousands of gardens within a leafcutter nest. Monoculture eliminates cultivar-cultivar competition that would select for competitive fungal traits that are detrimental to the ants, whereas polyculture of several fungi could increase nutritional diversity and disease resistance of genetically variable gardens. Methodology/Principal Findings Using three experimental approaches, we assessed cultivar diversity within nests of Atta leafcutter ants, which are most likely among all fungus-growing ants to cultivate distinct cultivar genotypes per nest because of the nests' enormous sizes (up to 5000 gardens) and extended lifespans (10–20 years). In Atta texana and in A. cephalotes, we resampled nests over a 5-year period to test for persistence of resident cultivar genotypes within each nest, and we tested for genetic differences between fungi from different nest sectors accessed through excavation. In A. texana, we also determined the number of Attamyces cells carried as a starter inoculum by a dispersing queens (minimally several thousand Attamyces cells), and we tested for genetic differences between Attamyces carried by sister queens dispersing from the same nest. Except for mutational variation arising during clonal Attamyces propagation, DNA fingerprinting revealed no evidence for fungal polyculture and no genotype turnover during the 5-year surveys. Conclusions/Significance Atta leafcutter ants can achieve stable, fungal monoculture over many years. Mutational variation emerging within an Attamyces monoculture could provide genetic diversity for symbiont choice (gardening biases of the ants favoring specific mutational variants), an analog of artificial selection. PMID:20844760

  1. Implications of season and management protocol on the landscape of gene regulation during diapause development in the Alfalfa Leaf Cutting Bee

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    : The alfalfa leaf cutting bee, Megachile rotundata, is the world’s most intensively managed solitary bee for commercial pollination. It is the primary pollinator of seed alfalfa, a valuable crop for dairy cow feed. Overwintering bees emerge in the spring during alfalfa bloom to mate an...

  2. Do leaf-cutter ants orient their path-integrated, home vector with a magnetic compass?

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Leaf-cutter ants Atta colombica forage over 250 m in structurally-complex, Neotropical rainforests that occlude sun or polarized light cues. Night foraging makes the use of celestial cues and landmarks all the more difficult. Typically leaf-cutter ants follow architecturally-modified, pheromonally-m...

  3. Reactions by army ant workers to nestmates having had contact with sympatric ant species.

    PubMed

    Dejean, Alain; Corbara, Bruno

    2014-11-01

    It was recently shown that Pheidole megacephala colonies (an invasive species originating from Africa) counterattack when raided by the army ant, Eciton burchellii. The subsequent contact permits Pheidole cuticular compounds (that constitute the "colony odour") to be transferred onto the raiding Eciton, which are then not recognised by their colony-mates and killed. Using a simple method for transferring cuticular compounds, we tested if this phenomenon occurs for Neotropical ants. Eciton workers rubbed with ants from four sympatric species were released among their colony-mates. Individuals rubbed with Solenopsis saevissima or Camponotus blandus workers were attacked, but not those rubbed with Atta sexdens, Pheidole fallax or with colony-mates (control lot). So, the chemicals of certain sympatric ant species, but not others, trigger intra-colonial aggressiveness in Eciton. We conclude that prey-ant chemicals might have played a role in the evolution of army ant predatory behaviour, likely influencing prey specialization in certain cases. PMID:25444708

  4. Effect of Tithonia diversifolia mulch on Atta cephalotes (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) nests.

    PubMed

    Rodríguez, Jonathan; Montoya-Lerma, James; Calle, Zoraida

    2015-01-01

    Recent studies have shown an insecticidal effect of Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) Gray (Asterales: Asteraceae) foliage on workers of Atta cephalotes L. and inhibitory effects of this plant on the growth of the symbiotic fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus (A. Müler) Singer. To evaluate the potential of T. diversifolia as a biological control treatment of this important pest, we assessed the effect of green manure (mulch) of this plant on natural nests of A. cephalotes, in Cali, Colombia. Three treatments were randomly assigned to 30 nests: 1) green mulch of T. diversifolia, 2) green mulch of Miconia sp., Ruiz & Pav. and 3) unmulched control. Every 2 wk for 6 mo, the surface of the nests was completely covered with leaves. Physical and chemical parameters of nest soil were assessed before the first and after the last application of the mulch. Ant foraging in T. diversifolia-treated nests decreased by 60% after the initial applications of the mulch, while nest surface area decreased by 40%. When the nests covered with T. diversifolia were opened, it was observed that the superficial fungus chambers had been relocated at a greater depth. In addition, microbial activity and soil pH increased by 84% and 12%, respectively, in nests covered with plant residues. In conclusion, the continued use of T. diversifolia mulch reduces foraging activity and negatively affects the internal conditions of the colonies, thereby inducing the ants to relocate the fungus chambers within the nests. PMID:25843585

  5. Effect of Tithonia diversifolia Mulch on Atta cephalotes (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Nests

    PubMed Central

    Rodríguez, Jonathan; Montoya-Lerma, James; Calle, Zoraida

    2015-01-01

    Recent studies have shown an insecticidal effect of Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) Gray (Asterales: Asteraceae) foliage on workers of Atta cephalotes L. and inhibitory effects of this plant on the growth of the symbiotic fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus (A. Müler) Singer. To evaluate the potential of T. diversifolia as a biological control treatment of this important pest, we assessed the effect of green manure (mulch) of this plant on natural nests of A. cephalotes, in Cali, Colombia. Three treatments were randomly assigned to 30 nests: 1) green mulch of T. diversifolia, 2) green mulch of Miconia sp., Ruiz & Pav. and 3) unmulched control. Every 2 wk for 6 mo, the surface of the nests was completely covered with leaves. Physical and chemical parameters of nest soil were assessed before the first and after the last application of the mulch. Ant foraging in T. diversifolia-treated nests decreased by 60% after the initial applications of the mulch, while nest surface area decreased by 40%. When the nests covered with T. diversifolia were opened, it was observed that the superficial fungus chambers had been relocated at a greater depth. In addition, microbial activity and soil pH increased by 84% and 12%, respectively, in nests covered with plant residues. In conclusion, the continued use of T. diversifolia mulch reduces foraging activity and negatively affects the internal conditions of the colonies, thereby inducing the ants to relocate the fungus chambers within the nests. PMID:25843585

  6. Measuring activity in ant colonies

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Noda, C.; Fernández, J.; Pérez-Penichet, C.; Altshuler, E.

    2006-12-01

    Ants, as paradigm of social insects, have become a recurrent example of efficient problem solvers via self-organization. In spite of the simple behavior of each individual, the colony as a whole displays "swarm intelligence:" the organization of ant trails for foraging is a typical output of it. But conventional techniques of observation can hardly record the amount of data needed to get a detailed understanding of self-organization of ant swarms in the wild. Here we are presenting a measurement system intended to monitor ant activity in the field comprising massive data acquisition and high sensitivity. A central role is played by an infrared sensor devised specifically to monitor relevant parameters to the activity of ants through the exits of the nest, although other sensors detecting temperature and luminosity are added to the system. We study the characteristics of the activity sensor and its performance in the field. Finally, we present massive data measured at one exit of a nest of Atta insularis, an ant endemic to Cuba, to illustrate the potential of our system.

  7. Genetic diversity and structure of Atta robusta (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Attini), an endangered species endemic to the restinga ecoregion

    PubMed Central

    dos Reis, Evelyze Pinheiro; Fernandes Salomão, Tânia Maria; de Oliveira Campos, Lucio Antonio; Tavares, Mara Garcia

    2014-01-01

    The genetic diversity and structure of the ant Atta robusta were assessed by ISSR (inter-simple sequence repeats) in 72 colonies collected from 10 localities in the Brazilian states of Espírito Santo (48 colonies) and Rio de Janeiro (24 colonies). The ISSR pattern included 67 bands, 51 of them (76.1%) polymorphic. Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed a high level (57.4%) of inter-population variation, which suggested a high degree of genetic structure that was confirmed by UPGMA (unweighted pair-group method using an arithmetic average) cluster analysis. The significant correlation between genetic and geographic distances (r = 0.64, p < 0.05) indicated isolation that reflected the distance between locations. Overall, the populations were found to be genetically divergent. This finding indicates the need for management plans to preserve and reduce the risk of extinction of A. robusta. PMID:25249782

  8. The use of alarm pheromones to enhance bait harvest by grass-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Hughes, W O H; Goulson, D

    2002-06-01

    The enhancement of bait for the control of grass-cutting ants was investigated using two species of grass-cutting ant, Atta bisphaerica (Forel) and Atta capiguara (Gonçalves) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bait was applied in loose piles to obtain a direct relationship between ant attraction and bait harvest. Enhancement with alarm pheromone compounds significantly increased the attractiveness and harvest of bait under certain conditions. A large proportion of the ants attracted to the enhanced bait were minor workers. These ants rarely transport bait because of their small size, and so it may be possible to increase the effect of bait enhancement by using smaller bait granules. Foragers of A. capiguara were less inclined to transport citrus-pulp bait than were those of Atta laevigata (Fr. Smith), a species that also harvests dicotyledonous plants. This emphasizes the importance of developing a bait matrix that is more acceptable to grass-cutting species. Nevertheless, the results suggest that alarm pheromone compounds have significant potential to improve the efficacy of baits for the control of grass-cutting ants. PMID:12088538

  9. Honey Ants.

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Conway, John R.

    1984-01-01

    Provides background information on honey ants. These ants are found in dry or desert regions of North America, Africa, and Australia. Also provides a list of activities using local species of ants. (JN)

  10. Mutualistic fungi control crop diversity in fungus-growing ants.

    PubMed

    Poulsen, Michael; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2005-02-01

    Leaf-cutting ants rear clonal fungi for food and transmit the fungi from mother to daughter colonies so that symbiont mixing and conflict, which result from competition between genetically different clones, are avoided. Here we show that despite millions of years of predominantly vertical transmission, the domesticated fungi actively reject mycelial fragments from neighboring colonies, and that the strength of these reactions are in proportion to the overall genetic difference between these symbionts. Fungal incompatibility compounds remain intact during ant digestion, so that fecal droplets, which are used for manuring newly grown fungus, elicit similar hostile reactions when applied to symbionts from other colonies. Symbiont control over new mycelial growth by manurial imprinting prevents the rearing of multiple crops in fungus gardens belonging to the same colony. PMID:15692054

  11. Metagenomic and metaproteomic insights into bacterial communities in leaf-cutter ant fungus gardens

    SciTech Connect

    Aylward, Frank O.; Burnum, Kristin E.; Scott, Jarrod J.; Suen, Garret; Tringe, Susannah G.; Adams, Sandra M.; Barry, Kerrie W.; Nicora, Carrie D.; Piehowski, Paul D.; Purvine, Samuel O.; Starrett, Gabriel J.; Goodwin, Lynne A.; Smith, Richard D.; Lipton, Mary S.; Currie, Cameron R.

    2012-09-01

    Herbivores gain access to nutrients stored in plant biomass largely by harnessing the metabolic activities of microbes. Leaf-cutter ants of the genus Atta are a hallmark example; these dominant Neotropical herbivores cultivate symbiotic fungus gardens on massive quantities of fresh plant forage. As the external digestive system of the ants, fungus gardens facilitate the production and sustenance of millions of workers in mature Atta colonies. Here we use metagenomic, and metaproteomic techniques to characterize the bacterial diversity and overall physiological potential of fungus gardens from two species of Atta. Our analysis of over 1.2 Gbp of community metagenomic sequence and three 16S pyrotag libraries reveals that, in addition to harboring the dominant fungal crop, these ecosystems contain abundant populations of Enterobacteriaceae, including the genera Enterobacter, Pantoea, Klebsiella, Citrobacter, and Escherichia. We show that these bacterial communities possess genes commonly associated with lignocellulose degradation, and likely participate in the processing of plant biomass. Additionally, we demonstrate that bacteria in these environments encode a diverse suite of biosynthetic pathways, and that they may enrich the nitrogen-poor forage of the ants with B-vitamins, amino acids, and proteins. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that fungus gardens are highly-specialized fungus-bacteria communities that efficiently convert plant material into usable energy for their ant hosts. Together with recent investigations into the microbial symbionts of vertebrates, our work underscores the importance of microbial communities to the ecology and evolution of herbivorous metazoans.

  12. Reciprocal genomic evolution in the ant-fungus agricultural symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Nygaard, Sanne; Hu, Haofu; Li, Cai; Schiøtt, Morten; Chen, Zhensheng; Yang, Zhikai; Xie, Qiaolin; Ma, Chunyu; Deng, Yuan; Dikow, Rebecca B; Rabeling, Christian; Nash, David R; Wcislo, William T; Brady, Seán G; Schultz, Ted R; Zhang, Guojie; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2016-01-01

    The attine ant-fungus agricultural symbiosis evolved over tens of millions of years, producing complex societies with industrial-scale farming analogous to that of humans. Here we document reciprocal shifts in the genomes and transcriptomes of seven fungus-farming ant species and their fungal cultivars. We show that ant subsistence farming probably originated in the early Tertiary (55-60 MYA), followed by further transitions to the farming of fully domesticated cultivars and leaf-cutting, both arising earlier than previously estimated. Evolutionary modifications in the ants include unprecedented rates of genome-wide structural rearrangement, early loss of arginine biosynthesis and positive selection on chitinase pathways. Modifications of fungal cultivars include loss of a key ligninase domain, changes in chitin synthesis and a reduction in carbohydrate-degrading enzymes as the ants gradually transitioned to functional herbivory. In contrast to human farming, increasing dependence on a single cultivar lineage appears to have been essential to the origin of industrial-scale ant agriculture. PMID:27436133

  13. Active use of the metapleural glands by ants in controlling fungal infection

    PubMed Central

    Fernández-Marín, Hermógenes; Zimmerman, Jess K; Rehner, Stephen A; Wcislo, William T

    2006-01-01

    Insect societies face constant challenges from disease agents. Ants deploy diverse antimicrobial compounds against pathogens and the key sources are metapleural glands (MGs). Are MG products passively secreted and used indiscriminately or are they selectively used when ants are challenged by pathogens? In 26 species from five subfamilies, ants use foreleg movements to precisely groom the MG opening. In the absence of experimental infection, MG grooming rates are low and workers groom themselves after contacting the MGs. The derived leaf-cutter ants (Atta and Acromyrmex) also groom their fungal gardens, substrata (leaves), queens and nest-mates after MG grooming. Atta respond to a challenge by fungal conidia by increasing the rate of MG grooming, but do not do so when an inert powder is applied. This increase occurs in the first hour after a potential infection, after which it returns to baseline levels. Ants with open MGs produce more infrabuccal pellets (IP) than ants with sealed MGs and conidia within pellets from the former are less likely to germinate. Thus, ants selectively groom their MGs when disease agents are present, suggesting that they also selectively use their MG secretions, which has important implications for understanding the evolution of hygienic behaviour in social groups. PMID:16769642

  14. Effectiveness of seed dispersal by ants in a Neotropical tree.

    PubMed

    Hardesty, Britta Denise

    2011-09-01

    Seed dispersal and subsequent recruitment is the template on which forest regeneration takes place. Hence, considering the scale over which ecological processes occur is key for understanding the overall impact of various dispersal agents. To explore leafcutter ant (Atta colombica) dispersal effectiveness in space and time, seed movement and subsequent recruitment of a large-seeded predominately vertebrate-dispersed tree, Simarouba amara (Aubl. Simaroubaceae), was investigated on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. At each of 218 reproductive-sized adults (≥20 cm diameter at breast height), presence or absence of a leafcutter ant colony was noted, with extensive checks for Atta activity taking place at or in close proximity to seed and seedling transects, which extended 4 cardinal directions for 30 m from each reproductive female tree (n= 74). Only at 2 S. amara trees were nests observed, and in these areas a dense S. amara seedling carpet was observed. Although nearby nest and dump sites might increase local S. amara recruitment in the short term, mortality at these sites is complete or nearly so. Hence, the seed dispersal effectiveness by leafcutter ants appears to be ephemeral and likely contributes inconsequentially to the long-term recruitment and distribution patterns of the species. This finding highlights the importance of evaluating disperser effectiveness at ecologically relevant spatiotemporal scales. PMID:21910841

  15. The Evolutionary Innovation of Nutritional Symbioses in Leaf-Cutter Ants

    PubMed Central

    Aylward, Frank O.; Currie, Cameron R.; Suen, Garret

    2012-01-01

    Fungus-growing ants gain access to nutrients stored in plant biomass through their association with a mutualistic fungus they grow for food. This 50 million-year-old obligate mutualism likely facilitated some of these species becoming dominant Neotropical herbivores that can achieve immense colony sizes. Recent culture-independent investigations have shed light on the conversion of plant biomass into nutrients within ant fungus gardens, revealing that this process involves both the fungal cultivar and a symbiotic community of bacteria including Enterobacter, Klebsiella, and Pantoea species. Moreover, the genome sequences of the leaf-cutter ants Atta cephalotes and Acromyrmex echinatior have provided key insights into how this symbiosis has shaped the evolution of these ants at a genetic level. Here we summarize the findings of recent research on the microbial community dynamics within fungus-growing ant fungus gardens and discuss their implications for this ancient symbiosis. PMID:26467948

  16. Technical Manual for Attitudes Towards Teaching All Students (ATTAS-mm) Instrument

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Gregory, Jess L.; Noto, Lori A.

    2012-01-01

    The general education teacher has the greatest influence on a student's success in school, and a teacher's attitude towards inclusion is a major factor in determining whether inclusion will be successful. The ATTAS-mm is a 9-item scale with strong reliability and validity. The three subscales: believing all students can succeed in general…

  17. The Thermoregulatory Function of Thatched Nests in the South American Grass-Cutting Ant, Acromyrmex heyeri

    PubMed Central

    Bollazzi, Martin; Roces, Flavio

    2010-01-01

    The construction of mound-shaped nests by ants is considered as a behavioral adaptation to low environmental temperatures, i.e., colonies achieve higher and more stables temperatures than those of the environment. Besides the well-known nests of boreal Formica wood-ants, several species of South American leaf-cutting ants of the genus Acromyrmex construct thatched nests. Acromyrmex workers import plant fragments as building material, and arrange them so as to form a thatch covering a central chamber, where the fungus garden is located. Thus, the degree of thermoregulation attained by the fungus garden inside the thatched nest largely depends on how the thatch affects the thermal relations between the fungus and the environment. This work was aimed at studying the thermoregulatory function of the thatched nests built by the grass-cutting ant Acromyrmex heyeri Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae). Nest and environmental temperatures were measured as a function of solar radiation on the long-term. The thermal diffusivity of the nest thatch was measured and compared to that of the surrounding soil, in order to assess the influence of the building material on the nest's thermoregulatory ability. The results showed that the average core temperature of thatched nests was higher than that of the environment, but remained below values harmful for the fungus. This thermoregulation was brought about by the low thermal diffusivity of the nest thatch built by workers with plant fragments, instead of the readily-available soil particles that have a higher thermal diffusivity. The thatch prevented diurnal nest overheating by the incoming solar radiation, and avoided losses of the accumulated daily heat into the cold air during the night. The adaptive value of thatching behavior in Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants occurring in the southernmost distribution range is discussed. PMID:20883129

  18. Metagenomic and metaproteomic insights into bacterial communities in leaf-cutter ant fungus gardens

    PubMed Central

    Aylward, Frank O; Burnum, Kristin E; Scott, Jarrod J; Suen, Garret; Tringe, Susannah G; Adams, Sandra M; Barry, Kerrie W; Nicora, Carrie D; Piehowski, Paul D; Purvine, Samuel O; Starrett, Gabriel J; Goodwin, Lynne A; Smith, Richard D; Lipton, Mary S; Currie, Cameron R

    2012-01-01

    Herbivores gain access to nutrients stored in plant biomass largely by harnessing the metabolic activities of microbes. Leaf-cutter ants of the genus Atta are a hallmark example; these dominant neotropical herbivores cultivate symbiotic fungus gardens on large quantities of fresh plant forage. As the external digestive system of the ants, fungus gardens facilitate the production and sustenance of millions of workers. Using metagenomic and metaproteomic techniques, we characterize the bacterial diversity and physiological potential of fungus gardens from two species of Atta. Our analysis of over 1.2 Gbp of community metagenomic sequence and three 16S pyrotag libraries reveals that in addition to harboring the dominant fungal crop, these ecosystems contain abundant populations of Enterobacteriaceae, including the genera Enterobacter, Pantoea, Klebsiella, Citrobacter and Escherichia. We show that these bacterial communities possess genes associated with lignocellulose degradation and diverse biosynthetic pathways, suggesting that they play a role in nutrient cycling by converting the nitrogen-poor forage of the ants into B-vitamins, amino acids and other cellular components. Our metaproteomic analysis confirms that bacterial glycosyl hydrolases and proteins with putative biosynthetic functions are produced in both field-collected and laboratory-reared colonies. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that fungus gardens are specialized fungus–bacteria communities that convert plant material into energy for their ant hosts. Together with recent investigations into the microbial symbionts of vertebrates, our work underscores the importance of microbial communities in the ecology and evolution of herbivorous metazoans. PMID:22378535

  19. Bacterial community composition and diversity in an ancestral ant fungus symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Kellner, Katrin; Ishak, Heather D; Linksvayer, Timothy A; Mueller, Ulrich G

    2015-07-01

    Fungus-farming ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae, Attini) exhibit some of the most complex microbial symbioses because both macroscopic partners (ants and fungus) are associated with a rich community of microorganisms. The ant and fungal microbiomes are thought to serve important beneficial nutritional and defensive roles in these symbioses. While most recent research has investigated the bacterial communities in the higher attines (e.g. the leaf-cutter ant genera Atta and Acromyrmex), which are often associated with antibiotic-producing Actinobacteria, very little is known about the microbial communities in basal lineages, labeled as 'lower attines', which retain the ancestral traits of smaller and more simple societies. In this study, we used 16S amplicon pyrosequencing to characterize bacterial communities of the lower attine ant Mycocepurus smithii among seven sampling sites in central Panama. We discovered that ant and fungus garden-associated microbiota were distinct from surrounding soil, but unlike the situation in the derived fungus-gardening ants, which show distinct ant and fungal microbiomes, microbial community structure of the ants and their fungi were similar. Another surprising finding was that the abundance of actinomycete bacteria was low and instead, these symbioses were characterized by an abundance of Lactobacillus and Pantoea bacteria. Furthermore, our data indicate that Lactobacillus strains are acquired from the environment rather than acquired vertically. PMID:26113689

  20. Non-specific association between filamentous bacteria and fungus-growing ants.

    PubMed

    Kost, Christian; Lakatos, Tanja; Böttcher, Ingo; Arendholz, Wolf-Rüdiger; Redenbach, Matthias; Wirth, Rainer

    2007-10-01

    Fungus-growing ants and their fungal cultivar form a highly evolved mutualism that is negatively affected by the specialized parasitic fungus Escovopsis. Filamentous Pseudonocardia bacteria occurring on the cuticle of attine ants have been proposed to form a mutualistic interaction with these ants in which they are vertically transmitted (i.e. from parent to offspring colonies). Given a strictly vertical transmission of Pseudonocardia, the evolutionary theory predicts a reduced genetic variability of symbionts among ant lineages. The aim of this study was to verify whether actinomycetes, which occur on Acromyrmex octospinosus leaf-cutting ants, meet this expectation by comparing their genotypic variability with restriction fragment length polymorphisms. Multiple actinomycete strains could be isolated from both individual ant workers and colonies (one to seven strains per colony). The colony specificity of actinomycete communities was high: Only 15% of all strains were isolated from more than one colony, and just 5% were present in both populations investigated. Partial sequencing of 16S ribosomal deoxyribonucleic acid of two of the isolated strains assigned both of them to the genus Streptomyces. Actinomycetes could also be isolated from workers of the two non-attine ant species Myrmica rugulosa and Lasius flavus. Sixty-two percent of the strains derived from attine ants and 80% of the strains isolated from non-attine ants inhibited the growth of Escovopsis. Our data suggest that the association between attine ants and their actinomycete symbionts is less specific then previously thought. Soil-dwelling actinomycetes may have been dynamically recruited from the environment (horizontal transmission), probably reflecting an adaptation to a diverse community of microbial pathogens. PMID:17541536

  1. The Ants Have It!

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Daugherty, Belinda

    2001-01-01

    Uses the GEMS guide, "Ants at Home Underground", to explore the life of ants and teach about them in a classroom setting. The activity applies students' knowledge of ants and students learn about ant colonies, what ants eat, and how they live. (SAH)

  2. Identifying the transition between single and multiple mating of queens in fungus-growing ants.

    PubMed Central

    Villesen, Palle; Murakami, Takahiro; Schultz, Ted R; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2002-01-01

    Obligate mating of females (queens) with multiple males has evolved only rarely in social Hymenoptera (ants, social bees, social wasps) and for reasons that are fundamentally different from those underlying multiple mating in other animals. The monophyletic tribe of ('attine') fungus-growing ants is known to include evolutionarily derived genera with obligate multiple mating (the Acromyrmex and Atta leafcutter ants) as well as phylogenetically basal genera with exclusively single mating (e.g. Apterostigma, Cyphomyrmex, Myrmicocrypta). All attine genera share the unique characteristic of obligate dependence on symbiotic fungus gardens for food, but the sophistication of this symbiosis differs considerably across genera. The lower attine genera generally have small, short-lived colonies and relatively non-specialized fungal symbionts (capable of living independently of their ant hosts), whereas the four evolutionarily derived higher attine genera have highly specialized, long-term clonal symbionts. In this paper, we investigate whether the transition from single to multiple mating occurred relatively recently in the evolution of the attine ants, in conjunction with the novel herbivorous 'leafcutter' niche acquired by the common ancestor of Acromyrmex and Atta, or earlier, at the transition to rearing specialized long-term clonal fungi in the common ancestor of the larger group of higher attines that also includes the genera Trachymyrmex and Sericomyrmex. We use DNA microsatellite analysis to provide unambiguous evidence for a single, late and abrupt evolutionary transition from exclusively single to obligatory multiple mating. This transition is historically correlated with other evolutionary innovations, including the extensive use of fresh vegetation as substrate for the fungus garden, a massive increase in mature colony size and morphological differentiation of the worker caste. PMID:12184823

  3. Ant nebula

    NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)

    1999-01-01

    A new Hubble Space Telescope image of a celestial object called the Ant Nebula may shed new light on the future demise of our Sun. The image is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/pictures/wfpc .

    The nebula, imaged on July 20, 1997, and June 30, 1998, by Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, was observed by Drs. Raghvendra Sahai and John Trauger of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Bruce Balick of the University of Washington in Seattle; and Vincent Icke of Leiden University in the Netherlands. JPL designed and built the camera.

    The Ant Nebula, whose technical name is Mz3, resembles the head and thorax of an ant when observed with ground-based telescopes. The new Hubble image, with 10 times the resolution revealing 100 times more detail, shows the 'ant's' body as a pair of fiery lobes protruding from a dying, Sun- like star. The Ant Nebula is located between 3,000 and 6,000 light years from Earth in the southern constellation Norma.

    The image challenges old ideas about what happens to dying stars. This observation, along with other pictures of various remnants of dying stars called planetary nebulae, shows that our Sun's fate will probably be much more interesting, complex and dramatic than astronomers previously believed.

    Although the ejection of gas from the dying star in the Ant Nebula is violent, it does not show the chaos one might expect from an ordinary explosion, but instead shows symmetrical patterns. One possibility is that the central star has a closely orbiting companion whose gravitational tidal forces shape the outflowing gas. A second possibility is that as the dying star spins, its strong magnetic fields are wound up into complex shapes like spaghetti in an eggbeater. Electrically charged winds, much like those in our Sun's solar wind but millions of times denser and moving at speeds up to 1,000 kilometers per second (more than 600 miles per second) from the star, follow the twisted field lines on their way

  4. Evolution of cold-tolerant fungal symbionts permits winter fungiculture by leafcutter ants at the northern frontier of a tropical ant-fungus symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Mueller, Ulrich G; Mikheyev, Alexander S; Hong, Eunki; Sen, Ruchira; Warren, Dan L; Solomon, Scott E; Ishak, Heather D; Cooper, Mike; Miller, Jessica L; Shaffer, Kimberly A; Juenger, Thomas E

    2011-03-01

    The obligate mutualism between leafcutter ants and their Attamyces fungi originated 8 to 12 million years ago in the tropics, but extends today also into temperate regions in South and North America. The northernmost leafcutter ant Atta texana sustains fungiculture during winter temperatures that would harm the cold-sensitive Attamyces cultivars of tropical leafcutter ants. Cold-tolerance of Attamyces cultivars increases with winter harshness along a south-to-north temperature gradient across the range of A. texana, indicating selection for cold-tolerant Attamyces variants along the temperature cline. Ecological niche modeling corroborates winter temperature as a key range-limiting factor impeding northward expansion of A. texana. The northernmost A. texana populations are able to sustain fungiculture throughout winter because of their cold-adapted fungi and because of seasonal, vertical garden relocation (maintaining gardens deep in the ground in winter to protect them from extreme cold, then moving gardens to warmer, shallow depths in spring). Although the origin of leafcutter fungiculture was an evolutionary breakthrough that revolutionized the food niche of tropical fungus-growing ants, the original adaptations of this host-microbe symbiosis to tropical temperatures and the dependence on cold-sensitive fungal symbionts eventually constrained expansion into temperate habitats. Evolution of cold-tolerant fungi within the symbiosis relaxed constraints on winter fungiculture at the northern frontier of the leafcutter ant distribution, thereby expanding the ecological niche of an obligate host-microbe symbiosis. PMID:21368106

  5. Leucoagaricus gongylophorus Produces Diverse Enzymes for the Degradation of Recalcitrant Plant Polymers in Leaf-Cutter Ant Fungus Gardens

    PubMed Central

    Aylward, Frank O.; Burnum-Johnson, Kristin E.; Tringe, Susannah G.; Teiling, Clotilde; Tremmel, Daniel M.; Moeller, Joseph A.; Scott, Jarrod J.; Barry, Kerrie W.; Piehowski, Paul D.; Nicora, Carrie D.; Malfatti, Stephanie A.; Monroe, Matthew E.; Purvine, Samuel O.; Goodwin, Lynne A.; Smith, Richard D.; Weinstock, George M.; Gerardo, Nicole M.; Suen, Garret; Lipton, Mary S.

    2013-01-01

    Plants represent a large reservoir of organic carbon comprised primarily of recalcitrant polymers that most metazoans are unable to deconstruct. Many herbivores gain access to nutrients in this material indirectly by associating with microbial symbionts, and leaf-cutter ants are a paradigmatic example. These ants use fresh foliar biomass as manure to cultivate gardens composed primarily of Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, a basidiomycetous fungus that produces specialized hyphal swellings that serve as a food source for the host ant colony. Although leaf-cutter ants are conspicuous herbivores that contribute substantially to carbon turnover in Neotropical ecosystems, the process through which plant biomass is degraded in their fungus gardens is not well understood. Here we present the first draft genome of L. gongylophorus, and, using genomic and metaproteomic tools, we investigate its role in lignocellulose degradation in the gardens of both Atta cephalotes and Acromyrmex echinatior leaf-cutter ants. We show that L. gongylophorus produces a diversity of lignocellulases in ant gardens and is likely the primary driver of plant biomass degradation in these ecosystems. We also show that this fungus produces distinct sets of lignocellulases throughout the different stages of biomass degradation, including numerous cellulases and laccases that likely play an important role in lignocellulose degradation. Our study provides a detailed analysis of plant biomass degradation in leaf-cutter ant fungus gardens and insight into the enzymes underlying the symbiosis between these dominant herbivores and their obligate fungal cultivar. PMID:23584789

  6. Discovery of Defense- and Neuropeptides in Social Ants by Genome-Mining

    PubMed Central

    Gruber, Christian W.; Muttenthaler, Markus

    2012-01-01

    Natural peptides of great number and diversity occur in all organisms, but analyzing their peptidome is often difficult. With natural product drug discovery in mind, we devised a genome-mining approach to identify defense- and neuropeptides in the genomes of social ants from Atta cephalotes (leaf-cutter ant), Camponotus floridanus (carpenter ant) and Harpegnathos saltator (basal genus). Numerous peptide-encoding genes of defense peptides, in particular defensins, and neuropeptides or regulatory peptide hormones, such as allatostatins and tachykinins, were identified and analyzed. Most interestingly we annotated genes that encode oxytocin/vasopressin-related peptides (inotocins) and their putative receptors. This is the first piece of evidence for the existence of this nonapeptide hormone system in ants (Formicidae) and supports recent findings in Tribolium castaneum (red flour beetle) and Nasonia vitripennis (parasitoid wasp), and therefore its confinement to some basal holometabolous insects. By contrast, the absence of the inotocin hormone system in Apis mellifera (honeybee), another closely-related member of the eusocial Hymenoptera clade, establishes the basis for future studies on the molecular evolution and physiological function of oxytocin/vasopressin-related peptides (vasotocin nonapeptide family) and their receptors in social insects. Particularly the identification of ant inotocin and defensin peptide sequences will provide a basis for future pharmacological characterization in the quest for potent and selective lead compounds of therapeutic value. PMID:22448224

  7. Discovery of defense- and neuropeptides in social ants by genome-mining.

    PubMed

    Gruber, Christian W; Muttenthaler, Markus

    2012-01-01

    Natural peptides of great number and diversity occur in all organisms, but analyzing their peptidome is often difficult. With natural product drug discovery in mind, we devised a genome-mining approach to identify defense- and neuropeptides in the genomes of social ants from Atta cephalotes (leaf-cutter ant), Camponotus floridanus (carpenter ant) and Harpegnathos saltator (basal genus). Numerous peptide-encoding genes of defense peptides, in particular defensins, and neuropeptides or regulatory peptide hormones, such as allatostatins and tachykinins, were identified and analyzed. Most interestingly we annotated genes that encode oxytocin/vasopressin-related peptides (inotocins) and their putative receptors. This is the first piece of evidence for the existence of this nonapeptide hormone system in ants (Formicidae) and supports recent findings in Tribolium castaneum (red flour beetle) and Nasonia vitripennis (parasitoid wasp), and therefore its confinement to some basal holometabolous insects. By contrast, the absence of the inotocin hormone system in Apis mellifera (honeybee), another closely-related member of the eusocial Hymenoptera clade, establishes the basis for future studies on the molecular evolution and physiological function of oxytocin/vasopressin-related peptides (vasotocin nonapeptide family) and their receptors in social insects. Particularly the identification of ant inotocin and defensin peptide sequences will provide a basis for future pharmacological characterization in the quest for potent and selective lead compounds of therapeutic value. PMID:22448224

  8. Atta sexdens (L.) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) demography in the Colombian Amazon: an evaluation of the palatable forage hypothesis.

    PubMed

    van Gils, Heike A J A; Gómez, Lilliam E; Gaigl, Andreas

    2011-08-01

    This study tested expectations of the palatable forage hypothesis for Atta sexdens (L.). Literature records on Atta and Acromyrmex nest density in the Neotropics were analyzed and A. sexdens demographical aspects were studied in six transects located along the Colombian Amazon River. Literature research results did not show that Atta and Acromyrmex nest densities are consistently higher in disturbed habitats. In transects, 56 active and 182 inactive nests were found in 2008. Higher active nest numbers and densities were determined for 1992, 1999, and 2006. Nests were present in old forest, in agricultural plot and grassland secondary forest, and absent from open spaces around houses, grasslands, agricultural plots, and a particular sector of old forest. Nest densities were higher in secondary forest. Between 1992 and 2008, the size of disturbed areas increased, whereas nest numbers and densities diminished. Average nest age was higher in secondary forest, but maximum nest age was comparable in the three habitats. On average, nests were superficially larger in old forest. Nests were mostly established in old forest, at sites without fallen trees. Almost all of those currently present in secondary forest were established in old forest before any disturbance occurred. In disturbed habitats, nest inactivity was slightly higher and possibly affected by human control efforts. This study suggested that the palatable forage hypothesis alone did not explain observed demographic patterns. Soil physiochemical variables or microclimatic conditions also are thought to play important roles in determining A. sexdens demography. PMID:22251676

  9. Are ant assemblages of Brazilian veredas characterised by location or habitat type?

    PubMed

    Costa-Milanez, C B; Lourenço-Silva, G; Castro, P T A; Majer, J D; Ribeiro, S P

    2014-02-01

    Wetland areas in the Brazilian Cerrado, known as "veredas", represent ecosystems formed on sandy soils with high concentrations of peat, and are responsible for the recharge of aquiferous reservoirs. They are currently under threat by various human activities, most notably the clearing of vegetation for Eucalyptus plantations. Despite their ecological importance and high conservation value, little is known about the actual effects of human disturbance on the animal community. To assess how habitat within different veredas, and plantations surrounding them affect ant assemblages, we selected four independent vereda locations, two being impacted by Eucalyptus monoculture (one younger and one mature plantation) and two controls, where the wetland was surrounded by cerrado vegetation. Ant sampling was conducted in May 2010 (dry season) using three complementary methods, namely baits, pitfall traps, and hand collection, in the wetland and in the surrounding habitats. A total of 7,575 ants were sampled, belonging to seven subfamilies, 32 genera and 124 species. Ant species richness and abundance did not differ between vereda locations, but did between the habitats. When impacted by the monoculture, ant species richness and abundance decreased in wetlands, but were less affected in the cerrado habitat. Ant species composition differed between the three habitats and between vereda locations. Eucalyptus plantations had an ant species composition defined by high dominance of Pheidole sp. and Solenopsis invicta, while natural habitats were defined by Camponotus and Crematogaster species. Atta sexdens was strictly confined to native habitats of non-impacted "veredas". Eucalyptus monocultures require high quantities of water in the early stages, which may have caused a decrease in groundwater level in the wetland, allowing hypogeic ants such as Labidus praedator to colonise this habitat. PMID:25055090

  10. The ant raft

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Mlot, Nathan; Hu, David; Equabai, Solomon

    2009-11-01

    To survive floods, fire ants link their arms together to assemble a raft with their own bodies. Because ants are nearly as dense as water, this cooperative behavior requires that a portion of the ant colony must sacrifice itself by remaining underwater to support the colony's weight. Surprisingly, few ants drown during this process due to a striking metamorphosis of the raft: as we show using time-lapse photography, the raft morphs from a spherical to a pancake shape. This pancake configuration--a monolayer of floating ants supporting their dry counterparts--allows all ants to both breathe and remain united as a colony. Data is presented in the form of the dimensions and the rates of formation of the ant raft. We use the statics of small floating bodies to account for the equilibrium raft size as a function of the initial mass and density of the ants.

  11. Leucoagaricus gongylophorus Produces Diverse Enzymes for the Degradation of Recalcitrant Plant Polymers in Leaf-Cutter Ant Fungus Gardens

    SciTech Connect

    Aylward, Frank O.; Burnum-Johnson, Kristin E.; Tringe, Susannah G.; Teiling, Clotilde; Tremmel, Daniel; Moeller, Joseph; Scott, Jarrod J.; Barry, Kerrie W.; Piehowski, Paul D.; Nicora, Carrie D.; Malfatti, Stephanie; Monroe, Matthew E.; Purvine, Samuel O.; Goodwin, Lynne A.; Smith, Richard D.; Weinstock, George; Gerardo, Nicole; Suen, Garret; Lipton, Mary S.; Currie, Cameron R.

    2013-06-12

    Plants represent a large reservoir of organic carbon comprised largely of recalcitrant polymers that most metazoans are unable to deconstruct. Many herbivores gain access to nutrients in this material indirectly by associating with microbial symbionts, and leaf-cutter ants are a paradigmatic example. These ants use fresh foliar biomass as manure to cultivate fungus gardens composed primarily of Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, a basidiomycetous symbiont that produces specialized hyphal swellings that serve as a food source for the host ant colony. Although leaf-cutter ants are conspicuous herbivores that contribute substantially to carbon turnover in Neotropical ecosystems, the process through which plant biomass is degraded in their fungus gardens is not well understood. Here we present the first draft genome of L. gongylophorus, and using genomic, metaproteomic, and phylogenetic tools we investigate its role in lignocellulose degradation in the fungus gardens of both Atta cephalotes and Acromyrmex echinatior leaf-cutter ants. We show that L. gongylophorus produces a diversity of lignocellulases in fungus gardens, and is likely the primary driver of plant biomass degradation in these ecosystems. We also show that this fungus produces distinct sets of lignocellulases throughout the different stages of biomass degradation, including numerous cellulases and laccases that may be playing an important but previously uncharacterized role in lignocellulose degradation. Our study provides a comprehensive analysis of plant biomass degradation in leaf-cutter ant fungus gardens and provides insight into the molecular dynamics underlying the symbiosis between these dominant herbivores and their obligate fungal cultivar.

  12. Identification and Expression of Capa Gene in the Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta

    PubMed Central

    Choi, Man-Yeon; Köhler, Rene; Vander Meer, Robert K.; Neupert, Susanne; Predel, Reinhard

    2014-01-01

    Recent genome analyses suggested the absence of a number of neuropeptide genes in ants. One of the apparently missing genes was the capa gene. Capa gene expression in insects is typically associated with the neuroendocrine system of abdominal ganglia; mature CAPA peptides are known to regulate diuresis and visceral muscle contraction. The apparent absence of the capa gene raised questions about possible compensation of these functions. In this study, we re-examined this controversial issue and searched for a potentially unrecognized capa gene in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. We employed a combination of data mining and a traditional PCR-based strategy using degenerate primers designed from conserved amino acid sequences of insect capa genes. Our findings demonstrate that ants possess and express a capa gene. As shown by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, processed products of the S. invicta capa gene include three CAPA periviscerokinins and low amounts of a pyrokinin which does not have the C-terminal WFGPRLa motif typical of CAPA pyrokinins in other insects. The capa gene was found with two alternative transcripts in the CNS. Within the ventral nerve cord, two capa neurons were immunostained in abdominal neuromeres 2–5, respectively, and projected into ventrally located abdominal perisympathetic organs (PSOs), which are the major hormone release sites of abdominal ganglia. The ventral location of these PSOs is a characteristic feature and was also found in another ant, Atta sexdens. PMID:24718032

  13. Multiple paternity, relatedness and genetic diversity in Acromyrmex leaf-cutter ants

    PubMed Central

    Boomsma, J. J.; Fjerdingstad, E. J.; Frydenberg, J.

    1999-01-01

    Multiple queen-mating occurs in many social insects, but high degrees of multiple paternity have only been found in honeybees and some yellowjacket wasps. Here we report the first case of an ant species where multiple mating reduces relatedness among female offspring to values significantly lower than 0.5. Genetic analysis of a Panamanian population of the leaf-cutter ant Acromyrmex octospinosus showed that queens mate with at least 4 to 10 males. The detected (minimum) genetically effective paternity of nestmate females was 3.9 and estimates of mean relatedness among nestmate females were ca. 0.33. This implies that multiple queen-mating in Acromyrmex octospinosus reduces relatedness to 44% of the value in full-sib colonies (0.75), realizing 84% of the maximum reduction (to 0.25) that would be obtained with an infinite number of matings. Queens of Panamanian Acromyrmex octospinosus mate with more males than sympatric queens of Atta colombica, which is contrary to the positive relationship between queen-mating frequency and colony size found across more distantly related ant species. Possible selective forces that maintain high queen-mating frequencies in leaf-cutter ants are discussed.

  14. Ant- and Ant-Colony-Inspired ALife Visual Art.

    PubMed

    Greenfield, Gary; Machado, Penousal

    2015-01-01

    Ant- and ant-colony-inspired ALife art is characterized by the artistic exploration of the emerging collective behavior of computational agents, developed using ants as a metaphor. We present a chronology that documents the emergence and history of such visual art, contextualize ant- and ant-colony-inspired art within generative art practices, and consider how it relates to other ALife art. We survey many of the algorithms that artists have used in this genre, address some of their aims, and explore the relationships between ant- and ant-colony-inspired art and research on ant and ant colony behavior. PMID:26280070

  15. Enrichment and Broad Representation of Plant Biomass-Degrading Enzymes in the Specialized Hyphal Swellings of Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, the Fungal Symbiont of Leaf-Cutter Ants

    SciTech Connect

    Aylward, Frank O.; Khadempour, Lily; Tremmel, Daniel; McDonald, Bradon R.; Nicora, Carrie D.; Wu, Si; Moore, Ronald J.; Orton, Daniel J.; Monroe, Matthew E.; Piehowski, Paul D.; Purvine, Samuel O.; Smith, Richard D.; Lipton, Mary S.; Burnum-Johnson, Kristin E.; Currie, Cameron R.

    2015-08-28

    Leaf-cutter ants are prolific and conspicuous Neotropical herbivores that derive energy from specialized fungus gardens they cultivate using foliar biomass. The basidiomycetous cultivar of the ants, Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, produces specialized hyphal swellings called gongylidia that serve as the primary food source of ant colonies. Gongylidia also contain lignocellulases that become concentrated in ant digestive tracts and are deposited within fecal droplets onto fresh foliar material as it is foraged by the ants. Although the enzymes concentrated by L. gongylophorus within gongylidia are thought to be critical to the initial degradation of plant biomass, only a few enzymes present in these hyphal swellings have been identified. Here we use proteomic methods to identify proteins present in the gongylidia of three Atta cephalotes colonies. Our results demonstrate that a diverse but consistent set of enzymes is present in gongylidia, including numerous lignocellulases likely involved in the degradation of polysaccharides, plant toxins, and proteins. Overall, gongylidia contained over three-quarters of all lignocellulases identified in the L. gongylophorus genome, demonstrating that the majority of the enzymes produced by this fungus for biomass breakdown are ingested by the ants. We also identify a set of 23 lignocellulases enriched in gongylidia compared to whole fungus garden samples, suggesting that certain enzymes may be particularly important in the initial degradation of foliar material. Our work sheds light on the complex interplay between leaf-cutter ants and their fungal symbiont that allows for the host insects to occupy an herbivorous niche by indirectly deriving energy from plant biomass.

  16. Acoustic communication by ants

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Hickling, Robert

    2002-05-01

    Many ant species communicate acoustically by stridulating, i.e., running a scraper over a washboard-like set of ridges. Ants appear to be insensitive to airborne sound. Consequently, myrmecologists have concluded that the stridulatory signals are transmitted through the substrate. This has tended to diminish the importance of acoustic communication, and it is currently believed that ant communication is based almost exclusively on pheromones, with acoustic communication assigned an almost nonexistent role. However, it can be shown that acoustic communication between ants is effective only if the medium is air and not the substrate. How, then, is it possible for ants to appear deaf to airborne sound and yet communicate through the air? An explanation is provided in a paper [R. Hickling and R. L. Brown, ``Analysis of acoustic communication by ants,'' J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 108, 1920-1929 (2000)]. Ants are small relative to the wavelengths they generate. Hence, they create a near field, which is characterized by a major increase in sound velocity (particle velocity of sound) in the vicinity of the source. Hair sensilla on the ants' antennae respond to sound velocity. Thus, ants are able to detect near-field sound from other ants and to exclude extraneous airborne sound.

  17. Field techniques for sampling ants

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Ants occur in most environments and ecologists ask a diverse array of questions involving ants. Thus, a key consideration in ant studies is to match the environment and question (and associated environmental variables) to the ant sampling technique. Since each technique has distinct limitations, usi...

  18. Fire Ant Bites

    MedlinePlus

    ... and the patient will develop difficulty breathing in addition to weakness. Patients who develop anaphylaxis and have a significant history of systemic reactions to fire ant stings should be checked for ...

  19. Ant traffic rules.

    PubMed

    Fourcassié, Vincent; Dussutour, Audrey; Deneubourg, Jean-Louis

    2010-07-15

    Many animals take part in flow-like collective movements. In most species, however, the flow is unidirectional. Ants are one of the rare group of organisms in which flow-like movements are predominantly bidirectional. This adds to the difficulty of the task of maintaining a smooth, efficient movement. Yet, ants seem to fare well at this task. Do they really? And if so, how do such simple organisms succeed in maintaining a smooth traffic flow, when even humans experience trouble with this task? How does traffic in ants compare with that in human pedestrians or vehicles? The experimental study of ant traffic is only a few years old but it has already provided interesting insights into traffic organization and regulation in animals, showing in particular that an ant colony as a whole can be considered as a typical self-organized adaptive system. In this review we will show that the study of ant traffic can not only uncover basic principles of behavioral ecology and evolution in social insects but also provide new insights into the study of traffic systems in general. PMID:20581264

  20. Ants and ant scent reduce bumblebee pollination of artificial flowers.

    PubMed

    Cembrowski, Adam R; Tan, Marcus G; Thomson, James D; Frederickson, Megan E

    2014-01-01

    Ants on flowers can disrupt pollination by consuming rewards or harassing pollinators, but it is difficult to disentangle the effects of these exploitative and interference forms of competition on pollinator behavior. Using highly rewarding and quickly replenishing artificial flowers that simulate male or female function, we allowed bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) to forage (1) on flowers with or without ants (Myrmica rubra) and (2) on flowers with or without ant scent cues. Bumblebees transferred significantly more pollen analogue both to and from ant-free flowers, demonstrating that interference competition with ants is sufficient to modify pollinator foraging behavior. Bees also removed significantly less pollen analogue from ant-scented flowers than from controls, making this the first study to show that bees can use ant scent to avoid harassment at flowers. Ant effects on pollinator behavior, possibly in addition to their effects on pollen viability, may contribute to the evolution of floral traits minimizing ant visitation. PMID:24334742

  1. Evolution of cold-tolerant fungal symbionts permits winter fungiculture by leafcutter ants at the northern frontier of a tropical ant–fungus symbiosis

    PubMed Central

    Mueller, Ulrich G.; Mikheyev, Alexander S.; Hong, Eunki; Sen, Ruchira; Warren, Dan L.; Solomon, Scott E.; Ishak, Heather D.; Cooper, Mike; Miller, Jessica L.; Shaffer, Kimberly A.; Juenger, Thomas E.

    2011-01-01

    The obligate mutualism between leafcutter ants and their Attamyces fungi originated 8 to 12 million years ago in the tropics, but extends today also into temperate regions in South and North America. The northernmost leafcutter ant Atta texana sustains fungiculture during winter temperatures that would harm the cold-sensitive Attamyces cultivars of tropical leafcutter ants. Cold-tolerance of Attamyces cultivars increases with winter harshness along a south-to-north temperature gradient across the range of A. texana, indicating selection for cold-tolerant Attamyces variants along the temperature cline. Ecological niche modeling corroborates winter temperature as a key range-limiting factor impeding northward expansion of A. texana. The northernmost A. texana populations are able to sustain fungiculture throughout winter because of their cold-adapted fungi and because of seasonal, vertical garden relocation (maintaining gardens deep in the ground in winter to protect them from extreme cold, then moving gardens to warmer, shallow depths in spring). Although the origin of leafcutter fungiculture was an evolutionary breakthrough that revolutionized the food niche of tropical fungus-growing ants, the original adaptations of this host-microbe symbiosis to tropical temperatures and the dependence on cold-sensitive fungal symbionts eventually constrained expansion into temperate habitats. Evolution of cold-tolerant fungi within the symbiosis relaxed constraints on winter fungiculture at the northern frontier of the leafcutter ant distribution, thereby expanding the ecological niche of an obligate host–microbe symbiosis. PMID:21368106

  2. Alate susceptibility in ants

    PubMed Central

    Ho, Eddie K H; Frederickson, Megan E

    2014-01-01

    Pathogens are predicted to pose a particular threat to eusocial insects because infections can spread rapidly in colonies with high densities of closely related individuals. In ants, there are two major castes: workers and reproductives. Sterile workers receive no direct benefit from investing in immunity, but can gain indirect fitness benefits if their immunity aids the survival of their fertile siblings. Virgin reproductives (alates), on the other hand, may be able to increase their investment in reproduction, rather than in immunity, because of the protection they receive from workers. Thus, we expect colonies to have highly immune workers, but relatively more susceptible alates. We examined the survival of workers, gynes, and males of nine ant species collected in Peru and Canada when exposed to the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana. For the seven species in which treatment with B. bassiana increased ant mortality relative to controls, we found workers were significantly less susceptible compared with both alate sexes. Female and male alates did not differ significantly in their immunocompetence. Our results suggest that, as with other nonreproductive tasks in ant colonies like foraging and nest maintenance, workers have primary responsibility for colony immunity, allowing alates to specialize on reproduction. We highlight the importance of colony-level selection on individual immunity in ants and other eusocial organisms. PMID:25540683

  3. Alate susceptibility in ants.

    PubMed

    Ho, Eddie K H; Frederickson, Megan E

    2014-11-01

    Pathogens are predicted to pose a particular threat to eusocial insects because infections can spread rapidly in colonies with high densities of closely related individuals. In ants, there are two major castes: workers and reproductives. Sterile workers receive no direct benefit from investing in immunity, but can gain indirect fitness benefits if their immunity aids the survival of their fertile siblings. Virgin reproductives (alates), on the other hand, may be able to increase their investment in reproduction, rather than in immunity, because of the protection they receive from workers. Thus, we expect colonies to have highly immune workers, but relatively more susceptible alates. We examined the survival of workers, gynes, and males of nine ant species collected in Peru and Canada when exposed to the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana. For the seven species in which treatment with B. bassiana increased ant mortality relative to controls, we found workers were significantly less susceptible compared with both alate sexes. Female and male alates did not differ significantly in their immunocompetence. Our results suggest that, as with other nonreproductive tasks in ant colonies like foraging and nest maintenance, workers have primary responsibility for colony immunity, allowing alates to specialize on reproduction. We highlight the importance of colony-level selection on individual immunity in ants and other eusocial organisms. PMID:25540683

  4. Utilization of Anting-Anting (Acalypha indica) Leaves as Antibacterial

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Batubara, Irmanida; Wahyuni, Wulan Tri; Firdaus, Imam

    2016-01-01

    Anting-anting (Acalypha indica) plants is a species of plant having catkin type of inflorescence. This research aims to utilize anting-anting as antibacterial toward Streptococcus mutans and degradation of biofilm on teeth. Anting-anting leaves were extracted by maceration technique using methanol, chloroform, and n-hexane. Antibacterial and biofilm degradation assays were performed using microdilution technique with 96 well. n-Hexane extracts of anting-anting leaves gave the best antibacterial potency with minimum inhibitory concentration and minimum bactericidal concentration value of 500 μg/mL and exhibited good biofilm degradation activity. Fraction of F3 obtained from fractionation of n-hexane's extract with column chromatography was a potential for degradation of biofilm with IC50 value of 56.82 μg/mL. Alkaloid was suggested as antibacterial and degradation of biofilm in the active fraction.

  5. Ant-based computing.

    PubMed

    Michael, Loizos

    2009-01-01

    A biologically and physically plausible model for ants and pheromones is proposed. It is argued that the mechanisms described in this model are sufficiently powerful to reproduce the necessary components of universal computation. The claim is supported by illustrating the feasibility of designing arbitrary logic circuits, showing that the interactions of ants and pheromones lead to the expected behavior, and presenting computer simulation results to verify the circuits' working. The conclusions of this study can be taken as evidence that coherent deterministic and centralized computation can emerge from the collective behavior of simple distributed Markovian processes such as those followed by biological ants, but also, more generally, by artificial agents with limited computational and communication abilities. PMID:19239348

  6. The Ants Go Marching Millions by Millions: Invasive Ant Research

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Invasive ants are a worldwide problem that is expanding both geographically and in intensity. Population explosions of invasive ants can overrun landscapes and inundate structures. Pest management professionals are often the first responders to complaints about invading ants. This session will fo...

  7. The ants go marching millions by millions: invasive ant research

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Invasive ants are a worldwide problem that is expanding both geographically and in intensity. Population explosions of invasive ants can overrun landscapes and inundate structures. Pest management professionals are often the first responders to complaints about invading ants. This session will fo...

  8. Routing Vehicles with Ants

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Tan, Wen Fang; Lee, Lai Soon; Majid, Zanariah Abdul; Seow, Hsin Vonn

    Routing vehicles involve the design of an optimal set of routes for a fleet of vehicles to serve a number of customers with known demands. This research develops an Ant Colony Optimization for the vehicle routing with one central depot and identical vehicles. The procedure simulates the behavior of real ants that always find the shortest path between their nest and a food source through a form of communication, pheromone trail. Finally, preliminary results on the learning of the algorithm testing on benchmark data set will be presented in this paper.

  9. Universality in ant behaviour.

    PubMed

    Christensen, Kim; Papavassiliou, Dario; de Figueiredo, Alexandre; Franks, Nigel R; Sendova-Franks, Ana B

    2015-01-01

    Prediction for social systems is a major challenge. Universality at the social level has inspired a unified theory for urban living but individual variation makes predicting relationships within societies difficult. Here, we show that in ant societies individual average speed is higher when event duration is longer. Expressed as a single scaling function, this relationship is universal because for any event duration an ant, on average, moves at the corresponding average speed except for a short acceleration and deceleration at the beginning and end. This establishes cause and effect within a social system and may inform engineering and control of artificial ones. PMID:25411406

  10. Ants: the supreme soil manipulators

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    This review focuses on the semiochemical interactions between ants and their soil environment. Ants occupy virtually every ecological niche and have evolved mechanisms to not just cope with, but also manipulate soil organisms. The metapleural gland, specific to ants was thought to be the major sourc...

  11. Leaf-cutter ant fungus gardens are biphasic mixed microbial bioreactors that convert plant biomass to polyols with biotechnological applications.

    PubMed

    Somera, Alexandre F; Lima, Adriel M; Dos Santos-Neto, Álvaro J; Lanças, Fernando M; Bacci, Maurício

    2015-07-01

    Leaf-cutter ants use plant matter to culture the obligate mutualistic basidiomycete Leucoagaricus gongylophorus. This fungus mediates ant nutrition on plant resources. Furthermore, other microbes living in the fungus garden might also contribute to plant digestion. The fungus garden comprises a young sector with recently incorporated leaf fragments and an old sector with partially digested plant matter. Here, we show that the young and old sectors of the grass-cutter Atta bisphaerica fungus garden operate as a biphasic solid-state mixed fermenting system. An initial plant digestion phase occurred in the young sector in the fungus garden periphery, with prevailing hemicellulose and starch degradation into arabinose, mannose, xylose, and glucose. These products support fast microbial growth but were mostly converted into four polyols. Three polyols, mannitol, arabitol, and inositol, were secreted by L. gongylophorus, and a fourth polyol, sorbitol, was likely secreted by another, unidentified, microbe. A second plant digestion phase occurred in the old sector, located in the fungus garden core, comprising stocks of microbial biomass growing slowly on monosaccharides and polyols. This biphasic operation was efficient in mediating symbiotic nutrition on plant matter: the microbes, accounting for 4% of the fungus garden biomass, converted plant matter biomass into monosaccharides and polyols, which were completely consumed by the resident ants and microbes. However, when consumption was inhibited through laboratory manipulation, most of the plant polysaccharides were degraded, products rapidly accumulated, and yields could be preferentially switched between polyols and monosaccharides. This feature might be useful in biotechnology. PMID:25911490

  12. Leaf-Cutter Ant Fungus Gardens Are Biphasic Mixed Microbial Bioreactors That Convert Plant Biomass to Polyols with Biotechnological Applications

    PubMed Central

    Somera, Alexandre F.; Lima, Adriel M.; dos Santos-Neto, Álvaro J.; Lanças, Fernando M.

    2015-01-01

    Leaf-cutter ants use plant matter to culture the obligate mutualistic basidiomycete Leucoagaricus gongylophorus. This fungus mediates ant nutrition on plant resources. Furthermore, other microbes living in the fungus garden might also contribute to plant digestion. The fungus garden comprises a young sector with recently incorporated leaf fragments and an old sector with partially digested plant matter. Here, we show that the young and old sectors of the grass-cutter Atta bisphaerica fungus garden operate as a biphasic solid-state mixed fermenting system. An initial plant digestion phase occurred in the young sector in the fungus garden periphery, with prevailing hemicellulose and starch degradation into arabinose, mannose, xylose, and glucose. These products support fast microbial growth but were mostly converted into four polyols. Three polyols, mannitol, arabitol, and inositol, were secreted by L. gongylophorus, and a fourth polyol, sorbitol, was likely secreted by another, unidentified, microbe. A second plant digestion phase occurred in the old sector, located in the fungus garden core, comprising stocks of microbial biomass growing slowly on monosaccharides and polyols. This biphasic operation was efficient in mediating symbiotic nutrition on plant matter: the microbes, accounting for 4% of the fungus garden biomass, converted plant matter biomass into monosaccharides and polyols, which were completely consumed by the resident ants and microbes. However, when consumption was inhibited through laboratory manipulation, most of the plant polysaccharides were degraded, products rapidly accumulated, and yields could be preferentially switched between polyols and monosaccharides. This feature might be useful in biotechnology. PMID:25911490

  13. Ant allergens and hypersensitivity reactions in response to ant stings.

    PubMed

    Potiwat, Rutcharin; Sitcharungsi, Raweerat

    2015-12-01

    Hypersensitivity reactions caused by ant stings are increasingly recognized as an important cause of death by anaphylaxis. Only some species of ants ( e.g. Solenopsis spp., Myrmecia spp., and Pachycondyla spp.) cause allergic reactions. Ant species are identified by evaluating the morphologic structures of worker ants or by molecular techniques. Ant venom contains substances, including acids and alkaloids, that cause toxic reactions, and those from Solenopsis invicta or the imported fire ant have been widely studied. Piperidine alkaloids and low protein contents can cause local reactions (sterile pustules) and systemic reactions (anaphylaxis). Imported fire ant venoms are cross-reactive; for example, the Sol i 1 allergen from S. invicta has cross-reactivity with yellow jacket phospholipase. The Sol i 3 allergen is a member of the antigen 5 family that has amino acid sequence identity with vespid antigen 5. The clinical presentations of ant hypersensitivity are categorized into immediate and delayed reactions: immediate reactions, such as small local reactions, large local reactions, and systemic reactions, occur within 1-4 hours after the ant stings, whereas delayed reactions, such as serum sickness and vasculitis, usually occur more than 4 hours after the stings. Tools for the diagnosis of ant hypersensitivity are skin testing, serum specific IgE, and sting challenge tests. Management of ant hypersensitivity can be divided into immediate (epinephrine, corticosteroids), symptomatic (antihistamines, bronchodilators), supportive (fluid resuscitation, oxygen therapy), and preventive (re-sting avoidance and immunotherapy) treatments. PMID:26708389

  14. Tiny, Powerful, Awesome Ants!

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Tate, Kathleen

    2007-01-01

    Peering through a thematic science lens--elementary students embarked on a one-week study of ants during a month-long summer school program. This integrated unit addressed reading and writing skills while developing the science-process skills of observation, inferring, and communicating in a motivating and authentic way. Pre- and post-assessments…

  15. Fire Ant Allergy

    MedlinePlus

    ... In extreme cases, a rapid fall in blood pressure may result in shock and loss of consciousness. Symptoms of anaphylaxis require emergency medical treatment. Given the severity of a potential reaction, an accurate diagnosis for fire ant allergy is key to being prepared for ...

  16. Enrichment and broad representation of plant biomass-degrading enzymes in the specialized hyphal swellings of Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, the fungal symbiont of leaf-cutter ants

    DOE PAGESBeta

    Aylward, Frank O.; Khadempour, Lily; Tremmel, Daniel M.; McDonald, Bradon R.; Nicora, Carrie D.; Wu, Si; Moore, Ronald J.; Orton, Daniel J.; Monroe, Matthew E.; Piehowski, Paul D.; et al

    2015-08-28

    Leaf-cutter ants are prolific and conspicuous constituents of Neotropical ecosystems that derive energy from specialized fungus gardens they cultivate using prodigious amounts of foliar biomass. The basidiomycetous cultivar of the ants, Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, produces specialized hyphal swellings called gongylidia that serve as the primary food source of ant colonies. Gongylidia also contain plant biomass-degrading enzymes that become concentrated in ant digestive tracts and are deposited within fecal droplets onto fresh foliar material as ants incorporate it into the fungus garden. Although the enzymes concentrated by L. gongylophorus within gongylidia are thought to be critical to the initial degradation of plantmore » biomass, only a few enzymes present in these hyphal swellings have been identified. Here we use proteomic methods to identify proteins present in the gongylidia of three Atta cephalotes colonies. Our results demonstrate that a diverse but consistent set of enzymes is present in gongylidia, including numerous plant biomass-degrading enzymes likely involved in the degradation of polysaccharides, plant toxins, and proteins. Overall, gongylidia contained over three quarters of all biomass-degrading enzymes identified in the L. gongylophorus genome, demonstrating that the majority of the enzymes produced by this fungus for biomass breakdown are ingested by the ants. We also identify a set of 40 of these enzymes enriched in gongylidia compared to whole fungus garden samples, suggesting that certain enzymes may be particularly important in the initial degradation of foliar material. Our work sheds light on the complex interplay between leaf-cutter ants and their fungal symbiont that allows for the host insects to occupy an herbivorous niche by indirectly deriving energy from plant biomass.« less

  17. Enrichment and Broad Representation of Plant Biomass-Degrading Enzymes in the Specialized Hyphal Swellings of Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, the Fungal Symbiont of Leaf-Cutter Ants

    PubMed Central

    Aylward, Frank O.; Khadempour, Lily; Tremmel, Daniel M.; McDonald, Bradon R.; Nicora, Carrie D.; Wu, Si; Moore, Ronald J.; Orton, Daniel J.; Monroe, Matthew E.; Piehowski, Paul D.; Purvine, Samuel O.; Smith, Richard D.; Lipton, Mary S.; Burnum-Johnson, Kristin E.; Currie, Cameron R.

    2015-01-01

    Leaf-cutter ants are prolific and conspicuous constituents of Neotropical ecosystems that derive energy from specialized fungus gardens they cultivate using prodigious amounts of foliar biomass. The basidiomycetous cultivar of the ants, Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, produces specialized hyphal swellings called gongylidia that serve as the primary food source of ant colonies. Gongylidia also contain plant biomass-degrading enzymes that become concentrated in ant digestive tracts and are deposited within fecal droplets onto fresh foliar material as ants incorporate it into the fungus garden. Although the enzymes concentrated by L. gongylophorus within gongylidia are thought to be critical to the initial degradation of plant biomass, only a few enzymes present in these hyphal swellings have been identified. Here we use proteomic methods to identify proteins present in the gongylidia of three Atta cephalotes colonies. Our results demonstrate that a diverse but consistent set of enzymes is present in gongylidia, including numerous plant biomass-degrading enzymes likely involved in the degradation of polysaccharides, plant toxins, and proteins. Overall, gongylidia contained over three quarters of all biomass-degrading enzymes identified in the L. gongylophorus genome, demonstrating that the majority of the enzymes produced by this fungus for biomass breakdown are ingested by the ants. We also identify a set of 40 of these enzymes enriched in gongylidia compared to whole fungus garden samples, suggesting that certain enzymes may be particularly important in the initial degradation of foliar material. Our work sheds light on the complex interplay between leaf-cutter ants and their fungal symbiont that allows for the host insects to occupy an herbivorous niche by indirectly deriving energy from plant biomass. PMID:26317212

  18. The Frugal Cosmic Ant

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    2007-09-01

    Using ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer and its unique ability to see small details, astronomers have uncovered a flat, nearly edge-on disc of silicates in the heart of the magnificent Ant Nebula. The disc seems, however, too 'skinny' to explain how the nebula got its intriguing ant-like shape. ESO PR Photo 42/07 ESO PR Photo 42/07 A Disc in the Ant Nebula The Ant Nebula is one of the most striking planetary nebulae known. Planetary nebulae - whose name arises because most are spherical and looked like planets when they were first discovered through older, less powerful telescopes - are glowing structures of gas cast off by solar-like stars at the ends of their lives. The morphology of the Ant Nebula - a bright core, three nested pairs of bipolar lobes and a ring-like outflow - is so unique that it was nicknamed the 'Chamber of Horrors' of planetary nebulae in the late 1950s. But how can a spherical star produce such complex structures? The answer, many astronomers think, requires understanding of the discs surrounding the central star. By their nature, these discs bear witness to the phenomena that lead to the asymmetrical structures of planetary nebulae. "The challenge is to actually detect these discs," explains team leader Olivier Chesneau, from the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, France. "Most astronomical instruments do not have a sharp enough view to find, let alone study them. The Very Large Telescope Interferometer however, with its exceptionally high spatial resolution, is a powerful disc-hunter." The disc of the Ant Nebula, which cannot be detected with a single 8.2-m VLT Unit Telescope, was uncovered in the interferometric mode where two 8.2-m Unit Telescopes were used to combine light, through the MID-infrared Interferometric instrument (MIDI). The observations reveal a flat, nearly edge-on disc whose major axis is perpendicular to the axis of the bipolar lobes. The disc extends from about 9 times the mean distance between the Earth and the

  19. Distributed nestmate recognition in ants

    PubMed Central

    Esponda, Fernando; Gordon, Deborah M.

    2015-01-01

    We propose a distributed model of nestmate recognition, analogous to the one used by the vertebrate immune system, in which colony response results from the diverse reactions of many ants. The model describes how individual behaviour produces colony response to non-nestmates. No single ant knows the odour identity of the colony. Instead, colony identity is defined collectively by all the ants in the colony. Each ant responds to the odour of other ants by reference to its own unique decision boundary, which is a result of its experience of encounters with other ants. Each ant thus recognizes a particular set of chemical profiles as being those of non-nestmates. This model predicts, as experimental results have shown, that the outcome of behavioural assays is likely to be variable, that it depends on the number of ants tested, that response to non-nestmates changes over time and that it changes in response to the experience of individual ants. A distributed system allows a colony to identify non-nestmates without requiring that all individuals have the same complete information and helps to facilitate the tracking of changes in cuticular hydrocarbon profiles, because only a subset of ants must respond to provide an adequate response. PMID:25833853

  20. Distributed nestmate recognition in ants.

    PubMed

    Esponda, Fernando; Gordon, Deborah M

    2015-05-01

    We propose a distributed model of nestmate recognition, analogous to the one used by the vertebrate immune system, in which colony response results from the diverse reactions of many ants. The model describes how individual behaviour produces colony response to non-nestmates. No single ant knows the odour identity of the colony. Instead, colony identity is defined collectively by all the ants in the colony. Each ant responds to the odour of other ants by reference to its own unique decision boundary, which is a result of its experience of encounters with other ants. Each ant thus recognizes a particular set of chemical profiles as being those of non-nestmates. This model predicts, as experimental results have shown, that the outcome of behavioural assays is likely to be variable, that it depends on the number of ants tested, that response to non-nestmates changes over time and that it changes in response to the experience of individual ants. A distributed system allows a colony to identify non-nestmates without requiring that all individuals have the same complete information and helps to facilitate the tracking of changes in cuticular hydrocarbon profiles, because only a subset of ants must respond to provide an adequate response. PMID:25833853

  1. Why are there few seedlings beneath the myrmecophyte Triplaris americana?

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Larrea-Alcázar, Daniel M.; Simonetti, Javier A.

    2007-07-01

    We compared the relative importance of chemical alellopathy, pruning behaviour of resident ants and other non-related agents to ant-plant mutualism for seedling establishment beneath Triplaris americana L. (Polygonaceae), a myrmecophyte plant. We also included a preliminary analysis of effects of fragmentation on these ecological processes. Seeds and seedlings of Theobroma cacao L. (Sterculiaceae) were used as the target species in all experiments. Leaf-tissue extracts of the myrmecophyte plant did not inhibit germination of cacao seeds. Resident Pseudomyrmex triplarinus Weddell (Pseudomyrmecinae) ants did not remove seeds under the canopy of their host plants. The main seed consumer was the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens L. (Myrmicinae). Leaves of cacao seedlings were partially or totally pruned by Pseudomyrmex ants mainly in forest fragments studied. We offer evidence pointing to the possibility that the absence of seedlings beneath Triplaris may result from effects of both ant species. We discuss the benefits of pruning behaviour for the resident ant colony and the effects of ant-ant interactions on seedling establishment beneath this ant-plant system.

  2. Mechanics of fire ant aggregations

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Tennenbaum, Michael; Liu, Zhongyang; Hu, David; Fernandez-Nieves, Alberto

    2016-01-01

    Fire ants link their bodies to form aggregations; these can adopt a variety of structures, they can drip and spread, or withstand applied loads. Here, by using oscillatory rheology, we show that fire ant aggregations are viscoelastic. We find that, at the lowest ant densities probed and in the linear regime, the elastic and viscous moduli are essentially identical over the spanned frequency range, which highlights the absence of a dominant mode of structural relaxation. As ant density increases, the elastic modulus rises, which we interpret by alluding to ant crowding and subsequent jamming. When deformed beyond the linear regime, the aggregation flows, exhibiting shear-thinning behaviour with a stress load that is comparable to the maximum load the aggregation can withstand before individual ants are torn apart. Our findings illustrate the rich, collective mechanical behaviour that can arise in aggregations of active, interacting building blocks.

  3. Mechanics of fire ant aggregations.

    PubMed

    Tennenbaum, Michael; Liu, Zhongyang; Hu, David; Fernandez-Nieves, Alberto

    2016-01-01

    Fire ants link their bodies to form aggregations; these can adopt a variety of structures, they can drip and spread, or withstand applied loads. Here, by using oscillatory rheology, we show that fire ant aggregations are viscoelastic. We find that, at the lowest ant densities probed and in the linear regime, the elastic and viscous moduli are essentially identical over the spanned frequency range, which highlights the absence of a dominant mode of structural relaxation. As ant density increases, the elastic modulus rises, which we interpret by alluding to ant crowding and subsequent jamming. When deformed beyond the linear regime, the aggregation flows, exhibiting shear-thinning behaviour with a stress load that is comparable to the maximum load the aggregation can withstand before individual ants are torn apart. Our findings illustrate the rich, collective mechanical behaviour that can arise in aggregations of active, interacting building blocks. PMID:26501413

  4. Parasitoid secretions provoke ant warfare.

    PubMed

    Thomas, J A; Knapp, J J; Akino, T; Gerty, S; Wakamura, S; Simcox, D J; Wardlaw, J C; Elmes, G W

    2002-05-30

    Insect social parasites are extreme specialists that typically use mimicry or stealth to enter ant colonies to exploit the rich, but fiercely protected, resources within their nests. Here we show how a parasitic wasp (parasitoid) contrives to reach its host, itself an endangered species of social parasite that lives inside the brood chambers of ant nests, by releasing semiochemicals to induce in-fighting between worker ants, locking the colony in combat and leaving it underprotected. Four of these chemicals are new to biology and have the potential to control pest species by inducing different agonistic behaviours in ants. PMID:12037556

  5. Fire ant microsporidia acquired by parasitoid flies of fire ants

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    The microsporidium Kneallhazia (formerly Thelohania) solenopsae and parasitoid flies in the genus Pseudacteon are natural enemies of the invasive fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Pseudacteon flies oviposit into adult fire ants, where maggots that eclose from eggs migrate to the ants’ head, pupate, and...

  6. Slowing them down will make them lose: a role for attine ant crop fungus in defending pupae against infections?

    PubMed

    Armitage, Sophie A O; Fernández-Marín, Hermógenes; Boomsma, Jacobus J; Wcislo, William T

    2016-09-01

    Fungus-growing ants (Attini) have evolved an obligate dependency upon a basidiomycete fungus that they cultivate as their food. Less well known is that the crop fungus is also used by many attine species to cover their eggs, larvae and pupae. The adaptive functional significance of this brood covering is poorly understood. One hypothesis to account for this behaviour is that it is part of the pathogen protection portfolio when many thousands of sister workers live in close proximity and larvae and pupae are not protected by cells, as in bees and wasps, and are immobile. We performed behavioural observations on brood covering in the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior, and we experimentally manipulated mycelial cover on pupae and exposed them to the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium brunneum to test for a role in pathogen resistance. Our results show that active mycelial brood covering by workers is a behaviourally plastic trait that varies temporally, and across life stages and castes. The presence of a fungal cover on the pupae reduced the rate at which conidia appeared and the percentage of pupal surface that produced pathogen spores, compared to pupae that had fungal cover experimentally removed or naturally had no mycelial cover. Infected pupae with mycelium had higher survival rates than infected pupae without the cover, although this depended upon the time at which adult sister workers were allowed to interact with pupae. Finally, workers employed higher rates of metapleural gland grooming to infected pupae without mycelium than to infected pupae with mycelium. Our results imply that mycelial brood covering may play a significant role in suppressing the growth and subsequent spread of disease, thus adding a novel layer of protection to their defence portfolio. PMID:27136600

  7. Autonomy in ants and humans.

    PubMed

    Carpendale, Jeremy I M; Frayn, Michael

    2016-01-01

    Drawing lessons regarding the consequences of ultrasociality in ants and humans depends crucially on recognizing differences as well as similarities in the way that species are social. We focus on Gowdy & Krall's use of the concept of autonomy to explicate essential differences in the ways in which ants and humans are social. PMID:27562193

  8. Ant navigation: reading geometrical signposts.

    PubMed

    Collett, Thomas S; Waxman, David

    2005-03-01

    Ants often travel along complex pheromone trail systems between their nest and foraging areas. A new and surprising discovery is that Pharaoh's ants can work out from the geometry of individual branch points on the trail whether they are heading towards or away from the nest. PMID:15753029

  9. Dominance Hierarchies in Leptothorax Ants

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Cole, Blaine J.

    1981-04-01

    The social organization of Leptothorax allardycei is unique among ant species thus far studied. The workers form linear dominance hierarchies characterized by routine displays of dominance, avoidance behavior, and even fighting. The high-ranking ants are favored in liquid food exchange, have greater ovarian development, and produce 20 percent of the eggs.

  10. Temperature: Human Regulating, Ants Conforming

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Clopton, Joe R.

    2007-01-01

    Biological processes speed up as temperature rises. Procedures for demonstrating this with ants traveling on trails, and data gathered by students on the Argentine ant ("Linepithema humile") are presented. The concepts of temperature regulation and conformity are detailed with a focus on the processes rather than on terms that label the organisms.

  11. Evolution of Fire Ant Control

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    The imported fire ants that entered the United States over 70 years ago have spread within the country to over 129.5 million ha. Efforts to stop the expansion and suppress fire ant populations have resulted in changing methods of control. Initial efforts focused on treating individual nests with h...

  12. AntR-mediated bidirectional activation of antA and antR, anthranilate degradative genes in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

    PubMed

    Kim, Soo-Kyoung; Im, Su-Jin; Yeom, Doo-Hwan; Lee, Joon-Hee

    2012-08-15

    Bidirectional activation of transcription is a peculiar regulation mode of gene expression. In this study, we show that genes involved in the metabolism of anthranilate, a precursor of biosynthesis of tryptophan and Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS) are regulated by this bidirectional activation of transcription. Anthranilate is degraded by anthranilate dioxygenase complex encoded by antABC operon, and AntR, a LysR-type regulator encoded by antR activates the transcription of antABC operon in the presence of anthranilate. In P. aeruginosa, antABC and antR are divergently located and AntR binds to the intergenic region between antA and antR to activate the antABC transcription. In this study, we determined the transcriptional start site of the antA promoter (antA(p)) and AntR-responsive elements (AREs) in P. aeruginosa. The upstream deletion analysis of antA(p) and in vitro gel shift assay with purified AntR showed that there are two AREs at -194 to -148 and -88 to -47 regions. We also found that AntR activates antR promoter (antR(p)) in the opposite direction and both AREs are important in the bidirectional activation of antA(p) and antR(p). Two AREs have different binding affinities to AntR and the strength of transcriptional activation was dramatically asymmetric depending on the direction. We suggest that the different affinities of two AREs may explain the asymmetry of the bidirectional activation by AntR. PMID:22609066

  13. Nesting Biology and Fungiculture of the Fungus-Growing Ant, Mycetagroicus cerradensis: New Light on the Origin of Higher Attine Agriculture

    PubMed Central

    Solomon, Scott E.; Lopes, Cauê T.; Mueller, Ulrich G.; Rodrigues, Andre; Sosa-Calvo, Jeffrey; Schultz, Ted R.; Vasconcelos, Heraldo L.

    2011-01-01

    The genus Mycetagroicus is perhaps the least known of all fungus-growing ant genera, having been first described in 2001 from museum specimens. A recent molecular phylogenetic analysis of the fungus-growing ants demonstrated that Mycetagroicus is the sister to all higher attine ants (Trachymyrmex, Sericomyrmex, Acromyrmex, Pseudoatta, and Atta), making it of extreme importance for understanding the transition between lower and higher attine agriculture. Four nests of Mycetagroicus cerradensis near Uberlândia, Minas Gerais, Brazil were excavated, and fungus chambers for one were located at a depth of 3.5 meters. Based on its lack of gongylidia (hyphal-tip swellings typical of higher attine cultivars), and a phylogenetic analysis of the ITS rDNA gene region, M. cerradensis cultivates a lower attine fungus in Clade 2 of lower attine (G3) fungi. This finding refines a previous estimate for the origin of higher attine agriculture, an event that can now be dated at approximately 21–25 mya in the ancestor of extant species of Trachymyrmex and Sericomyrmex. PMID:21526926

  14. Dynamics of fire ant aggregations

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Tennenbaum, Michael; Hu, David; Fernandez-Nieves, Alberto

    Fire ant aggregations are an inherently active system. Each ant harvests its own energy and can convert it into motion. The motion of individual ants contributes non-trivially to the bulk material properties of the aggregation. We have measured some of these properties using plate-plate rheology, where the response to an applied external force or deformation is measured. In this talk, we will present data pertaining to the aggregation behavior in the absence of any external force. We quantify the aggregation dynamics by monitoring the rotation of the top plate and by measuring the normal force. We then compare the results with visualizations of 2D aggregations.

  15. Enrichment and broad representation of plant biomass-degrading enzymes in the specialized hyphal swellings of Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, the fungal symbiont of leaf-cutter ants

    SciTech Connect

    Aylward, Frank O.; Khadempour, Lily; Tremmel, Daniel M.; McDonald, Bradon R.; Nicora, Carrie D.; Wu, Si; Moore, Ronald J.; Orton, Daniel J.; Monroe, Matthew E.; Piehowski, Paul D.; Purvine, Samuel O.; Smith, Richard D.; Lipton, Mary S.; Burnum-Johnson, Kristin E.; Currie, Cameron R.; Brady, Sean

    2015-08-28

    Leaf-cutter ants are prolific and conspicuous constituents of Neotropical ecosystems that derive energy from specialized fungus gardens they cultivate using prodigious amounts of foliar biomass. The basidiomycetous cultivar of the ants, Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, produces specialized hyphal swellings called gongylidia that serve as the primary food source of ant colonies. Gongylidia also contain plant biomass-degrading enzymes that become concentrated in ant digestive tracts and are deposited within fecal droplets onto fresh foliar material as ants incorporate it into the fungus garden. Although the enzymes concentrated by L. gongylophorus within gongylidia are thought to be critical to the initial degradation of plant biomass, only a few enzymes present in these hyphal swellings have been identified. Here we use proteomic methods to identify proteins present in the gongylidia of three Atta cephalotes colonies. Our results demonstrate that a diverse but consistent set of enzymes is present in gongylidia, including numerous plant biomass-degrading enzymes likely involved in the degradation of polysaccharides, plant toxins, and proteins. Overall, gongylidia contained over three quarters of all biomass-degrading enzymes identified in the L. gongylophorus genome, demonstrating that the majority of the enzymes produced by this fungus for biomass breakdown are ingested by the ants. We also identify a set of 40 of these enzymes enriched in gongylidia compared to whole fungus garden samples, suggesting that certain enzymes may be particularly important in the initial degradation of foliar material. Our work sheds light on the complex interplay between leaf-cutter ants and their fungal symbiont that allows for the host insects to occupy an herbivorous niche by indirectly deriving energy from plant biomass.

  16. MANAGING IMPORTED FIRE ANTS IN URBAN AREAS

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    The two species of imported fire ants (red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, and black imported fire ant, Solenopsis richteri) and their sexually reproducing hybrid are invasive insects whose stings can cause serious medical problems. Imported fire ants interfere with outdoor activities and ha...

  17. Biological Control of Imported Fire Ants

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Since 1998, the Alabama Fire Ant Management Program has been releasing natural enemies of imported fire ants. These natural enemies are being studied to determine their impact on fire ants. It is hoped that eventually the overall number of fire ants in Alabama can be reduced through biological cont...

  18. Neuroretinitis following bull ant sting.

    PubMed

    Ullrich, Katja; Saha, Niladri; Lake, Stewart

    2012-01-01

    Cat scratch disease causes the majority of cases of neuroretinitis. Neuroretinitis is characterised by clinical features of papillitis, macular oedema and macular star. We report a case study of infection with Bartonella henselae most likely transmitted by a bull ant sting. The patient presented with blurred vision and reduced visual acuity after being stung by an ant in her garden some 7 days earlier. Further testing revealed positive serology to B henselae and the patient improved with appropriate treatment. PMID:22865803

  19. Trap-mulching Argentine ants.

    PubMed

    Silverman, Jules; Sorenson, Clyde E; Waldvogel, Michael G

    2006-10-01

    Argentine ant, Linepithema humile (Mayr), management is constrained, in large part, by polydomy where nestmates are distributed extensively across urban landscapes, particularly within mulch. Management with trap-mulching is a novel approach derived from trap-cropping where ants are repelled from a broad domain of nest sites to smaller defined areas, which are subsequently treated with insecticide. This concept was field-tested with mulch surrounding ornamental trees replaced with a narrow band of pine (Pinus spp.) needle mulch (trap) within a much larger patch of repellent aromatic cedar (Juniperus spp.) mulch. After ants reestablished around the trees, the pine needle mulch band was treated with 0.06% fipronil (Termidor). Poor results were obtained when the trap extended from the tree trunk to the edge of the mulched area. When the trap was applied as a circular band around the tree trunk reductions in the number of foraging ants were recorded through 14 d compared with an untreated mulch control, but not for longer periods. Reductions in the number of ant nests within mulch were no different between the trap mulch and any of the other treatments. We conclude that trap-mulching offers limited benefits, and that successful management of Argentine ants will require implementation of complementary or perhaps alternative strategies. PMID:17066809

  20. Macroevolutionary assembly of ant/plant symbioses: Pseudomyrmex ants and their ant-housing plants in the Neotropics.

    PubMed

    Chomicki, Guillaume; Ward, Philip S; Renner, Susanne S

    2015-11-22

    Symbioses include some of the clearest cases of coevolution, but their origin, loss or reassembly with different partners can rarely be inferred. Here we use ant/plant symbioses involving three plant clades to investigate the evolution of symbioses. We generated phylogenies for the big-eyed arboreal ants (Pseudomyrmecinae), including 72% of their 286 species, as well as for five of their plant host groups, in each case sampling more than 61% of the species. We show that the ant-housing Vachellia (Mimosoideae) clade and its ants co-diversified for the past 5 Ma, with some species additionally colonized by younger plant-nesting ant species, some parasitic. An apparent co-radiation of ants and Tachigali (Caesalpinioideae) was followed by waves of colonization by the same ant clade, and subsequent occupation by a younger ant group. Wide crown and stem age differences between the ant-housing genus Triplaris (Polygonaceae) and its obligate ant inhabitants, and stochastic trait mapping, indicate that its domatium evolved earlier than the ants now occupying it, suggesting previous symbioses that dissolved. Parasitic ant species evolved from generalists, not from mutualists, and are younger than the mutualistic systems they parasitize. Our study illuminates the macroevolutionary assembly of ant/plant symbioses, which has been highly dynamic, even in very specialized systems. PMID:26582029

  1. How Ants Drop Out: Ant Abundance on Tropical Mountains

    PubMed Central

    Longino, John T.; Branstetter, Michael G.; Colwell, Robert K.

    2014-01-01

    In tropical wet forests, ants are a large proportion of the animal biomass, but the factors determining abundance are not well understood. We characterized ant abundance in the litter layer of 41 mature wet forest sites spread throughout Central America (Chiapas, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) and examined the impact of elevation (as a proxy for temperature) and community species richness. Sites were intentionally chosen to minimize variation in precipitation and seasonality. From sea level to 1500 m ant abundance very gradually declined, community richness declined more rapidly than abundance, and the local frequency of the locally most common species increased. These results suggest that within this elevational zone, density compensation is acting, maintaining high ant abundance as richness declines. In contrast, in sites above 1500 m, ant abundance dropped abruptly to much lower levels. Among these high montane sites, community richness explained much more of the variation in abundance than elevation, and there was no evidence of density compensation. The relative stability of abundance below 1500 m may be caused by opposing effects of temperature on productivity and metabolism. Lower temperatures may decrease productivity and thus the amount of food available for consumers, but slower metabolisms of consumers may allow maintenance of higher biomass at lower resource supply rates. Ant communities at these lower elevations may be highly interactive, the result of continuous habitat presence over geological time. High montane sites may be ephemeral in geological time, resulting in non-interactive communities dominated by historical and stochastic processes. Abundance in these sites may be determined by the number of species that manage to colonize and/or avoid extinction on mountaintops. PMID:25098722

  2. Detrimental effects of highly efficient interference competition: invasive Argentine ants outcompete native ants at toxic baits.

    PubMed

    Buczkowski, Grzegorz; Bennett, Gary W

    2008-06-01

    The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) is an invasive species that disrupts the balance of natural ecosystems by displacing indigenous ant species throughout its introduced range. Previous studies that examined the mechanisms by which Argentine ants attain ecological dominance showed that superior interference and exploitation competition are key to the successful displacement of native ant species. The objective of this research was to test the hypothesis that effective interference competition by Argentine ants may also be detrimental to the survival of Argentine ant colonies where Argentine ants and native ants compete at toxic baits used to slow the spread of Argentine ants. To study this hypothesis, we examined the competitive interactions between Argentine ants and native odorous house ants, Tapinoma sessile, in the presence and absence of toxic baits. Results showed that Argentine ants aggressively outcompete T. sessile from toxic baits through efficient interference competition and monopolize bait resources. This has severe negative consequences for the survival of Argentine ants as colonies succumb to the toxic effects of the bait. In turn, T. sessile avoid areas occupied by Argentine ants, give up baits, and consequently suffer minimal mortality. Our results provide experimental evidence that highly efficient interference competition may have negative consequences for Argentine ants in areas where toxic baits are used and may provide a basis for designing innovative management programs for Argentine ants. Such programs would have the double benefit of selectively eliminating the invasive species while simultaneously protecting native ants from the toxic effects of baits. PMID:18559180

  3. Do aphids actively search for ant partners?

    PubMed

    Fischer, Christophe Y; Vanderplanck, Maryse; Lognay, Georges C; Detrain, Claire; Verheggen, François J

    2015-04-01

    The aphid-ant mutualistic relationships are not necessarily obligate for neither partners but evidence is that such interactions provide them strong advantages in terms of global fitness. While it is largely assumed that ants actively search for their mutualistic partners namely using volatile cues; whether winged aphids (i.e., aphids' most mobile form) are able to select ant-frequented areas had not been investigated so far. Ant-frequented sites would indeed offer several advantages for these aphids including a lower predation pressure through ant presence and enhanced chances of establishing mutuaslistic interactions with neighbor ant colonies. In the field, aphid colonies are often observed in higher densities around ant nests, which is probably linked to a better survival ensured by ants' services. Nevertheless, this could also result from a preferential establishment of winged aphids in ant-frequented areas. We tested this last hypothesis through different ethological assays and show that the facultative myrmecophilous black bean aphid, Aphis fabae L., does not orientate its search for a host plant preferentially toward ant-frequented plants. However, our results suggest that ants reduce the number of winged aphids leaving the newly colonized plant. Thus, ants involved in facultative myrmecophilous interactions with aphids appear to contribute to structure aphid populations in the field by ensuring a better establishment and survival of newly established colonies rather than by inducing a deliberate plant selection by aphid partners based on the proximity of ant colonies. PMID:24659520

  4. Integrating Paleodistribution Models and Phylogeography in the Grass-Cutting Ant Acromyrmex striatus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Southern Lowlands of South America.

    PubMed

    Cristiano, Maykon Passos; Clemes Cardoso, Danon; Fernandes-Salomão, Tânia Maria; Heinze, Jürgen

    2016-01-01

    Past climate changes often have influenced the present distribution and intraspecific genetic diversity of organisms. The objective of this study was to investigate the phylogeography and historical demography of populations of Acromyrmex striatus (Roger, 1863), a leaf-cutting ant species restricted to the open plains of South America. Additionally, we modeled the distribution of this species to predict its contemporary and historic habitat. From the partial sequences of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome oxidase I of 128 A. striatus workers from 38 locations we estimated genetic diversity and inferred historical demography, divergence time, and population structure. The potential distribution areas of A. striatus for current and quaternary weather conditions were modeled using the maximum entropy algorithm. We identified a total of 58 haplotypes, divided into five main haplogroups. The analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed that the largest proportion of genetic variation is found among the groups of populations. Paleodistribution models suggest that the potential habitat of A. striatus may have decreased during the Last Interglacial Period (LIG) and expanded during the Last Maximum Glacial (LGM). Overall, the past potential distribution recovered by the model comprises the current potential distribution of the species. The general structuring pattern observed was consistent with isolation by distance, suggesting a balance between gene flow and drift. Analysis of historical demography showed that populations of A. striatus had remained constant throughout its evolutionary history. Although fluctuations in the area of their potential historic habitat occurred during quaternary climate changes, populations of A. striatus are strongly structured geographically. However, explicit barriers to gene flow have not been identified. These findings closely match those in Mycetophylax simplex, another ant species that in some areas occurs in sympatry with A. striatus

  5. Integrating Paleodistribution Models and Phylogeography in the Grass-Cutting Ant Acromyrmex striatus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Southern Lowlands of South America

    PubMed Central

    Cristiano, Maykon Passos; Clemes Cardoso, Danon; Fernandes-Salomão, Tânia Maria; Heinze, Jürgen

    2016-01-01

    Past climate changes often have influenced the present distribution and intraspecific genetic diversity of organisms. The objective of this study was to investigate the phylogeography and historical demography of populations of Acromyrmex striatus (Roger, 1863), a leaf-cutting ant species restricted to the open plains of South America. Additionally, we modeled the distribution of this species to predict its contemporary and historic habitat. From the partial sequences of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome oxidase I of 128 A. striatus workers from 38 locations we estimated genetic diversity and inferred historical demography, divergence time, and population structure. The potential distribution areas of A. striatus for current and quaternary weather conditions were modeled using the maximum entropy algorithm. We identified a total of 58 haplotypes, divided into five main haplogroups. The analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed that the largest proportion of genetic variation is found among the groups of populations. Paleodistribution models suggest that the potential habitat of A. striatus may have decreased during the Last Interglacial Period (LIG) and expanded during the Last Maximum Glacial (LGM). Overall, the past potential distribution recovered by the model comprises the current potential distribution of the species. The general structuring pattern observed was consistent with isolation by distance, suggesting a balance between gene flow and drift. Analysis of historical demography showed that populations of A. striatus had remained constant throughout its evolutionary history. Although fluctuations in the area of their potential historic habitat occurred during quaternary climate changes, populations of A. striatus are strongly structured geographically. However, explicit barriers to gene flow have not been identified. These findings closely match those in Mycetophylax simplex, another ant species that in some areas occurs in sympatry with A. striatus

  6. Myrmecotrophy: Plants fed by ants.

    PubMed

    Beattie, A

    1989-06-01

    Two plant genera with tubers specialized for occupation by ants absorb nutrients from waste materials accumulated by the resident colonies. The mineral resources of these host plants are augmented by colony foraging which functions as a second root system. This mutualistic interaction has become known as myrmecotrophy. Many other kinds of plant structure are apparent adaptations to accommodate ant colonies; these include pouches on leaves or petioles and hollow twigs, stems or thorns. Sometimes the ant species residing in these structures are aggressive towards enemies of the host plant and are important for plant defence. Recent research provides some evidence that myrmecotrophy may have a wider role in plant nutrition, at least when subsidizing the costs of plant defence. PMID:21227344

  7. Presence of the fire ant pathogen Kneallhazia solenopsae in fire ant decapitating phorid flies

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Pathogens and parasites from South America are being evaluated for the biological control of imported fire ants in the U.S. Fire ant decapitating flies that developed in fire ants infected with the fire ant pathogen Kneallhazia (formerly Thelohania) solenopsae also acquired the pathogen. K. soleno...

  8. Biological control of red imported fire ants

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Two species of Imported Fire Ants (IFA), the Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, and the Black Imported Fire Ant, S. richteri Forel, were introduced into the United States in the early 1900s and currently inhabit over 320 million acres in the southern United States and Puerto Rico. Red ...

  9. Using Ants To Investigate the Environment.

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Hagevik, Rita A.

    2003-01-01

    Describes three inquiry-based activities designed for students to begin to understand complex environmental relationships in their own backyard. Includes investigations of ants, which allow students to establish a baseline survey of ant fauna, test the importance of ants in nutrient cycling and soil structure maintenances, and increase student…

  10. Using Ants to Investigate the Environment

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Hagevik, Rita A.

    2005-01-01

    The best place for students to begin to understand complex environmental relationships is in their own back yards. Doing investigations of ants allows students to establish a baseline survey of ant fauna, test the importance of ants in nutrient cycling and soil structure maintenance, and increase their understanding of the environment and their…

  11. Raves & rants about invasive crazy ants

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Crazy ants” is a name that refers to various species of ants that are characterized by erratic, scurrying, or running, behavior when disturbed. Two of these species, the yellow crazy ant and the Caribbean or Rasberry [sic] crazy ant, are invasive with extremely large populations that inundate lands...

  12. Ants, Wasps, and Bees (Hymenoptera)

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Stinging wasps, bees, and ants are a problem for farm workers, particularly at harvest when these insects are attracted to ripe fruits. Researchers at the USDA-ARS Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory, Wapato, WA, together with personnel at Oral Roberts University compiled available information o...

  13. Ant Ecdysteroid Extraction and Radioimmunoassay

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Ecdysteroids are a group of steroid compounds present in many plant and invertebrate species. In arthropods, they function primarily as hormones involved in the regulation of molting. This protocol describes how to extract ecdysteroid hormones from ant specimens and subsequently quantify circulating...

  14. Evolutional Ant Colony Method Using PSO

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Morii, Nobuto; Aiyoshi, Eitarou

    The ant colony method is one of heuristic methods capable of solving the traveling salesman problem (TSP), in which a good tour is generated by the artificial ant's probabilistic behavior. However, the generated tour length depends on the parameter describing the ant's behavior, and the best parameters corresponding to the problem to be solved is unknown. In this technical note, the evolutional strategy is presented to find the best parameter of the ant colony by using Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) in the parameter space. Numerical simulations for benchmarks demonstrate effectiveness of the evolutional ant colony method.

  15. Tournaments and slavery in a desert ant.

    PubMed

    Hölldobler, B

    1976-05-28

    Many species of ants engage in physical fighting when territorial borders are challenged. In contrast, colonies of the honeypot ant species Myrmecocystus mimicus conduct ritualized tournaments, in which hundreds of ants perform highly stereotyped display fights. Opposing colonies summon their worker forces to the tournament area by means of an alarm-recruitment system. When one colony is considerably stronger than the other, the tournament quickly ends, and the weaker colony is raided and its ants "enslaved." This is the first example of intraspecific slavery recorded in ants. PMID:17817765

  16. Methods for Casting Subterranean Ant Nests

    PubMed Central

    Tschinkel, Walter R.

    2010-01-01

    The study of subterranean ant nests has been impeded by the difficulty of rendering their structures in visible form. Here, several different casting materials are shown to make perfect casts of the underground nests of ants. Each material (dental plaster, paraffin wax, aluminum, zinc) has advantages and limitations, which are discussed. Some of the materials allow the recovery of the ants entombed in the casts, allowing a census of the ants to be connected with features of their nest architecture. The necessary equipment and procedures are described in the hope that more researchers will study this very important aspect of ant natural history. PMID:20673073

  17. Quantifying Ant Activity Using Vibration Measurements

    PubMed Central

    Oberst, Sebastian; Baro, Enrique Nava; Lai, Joseph C. S.; Evans, Theodore A.

    2014-01-01

    Ant behaviour is of great interest due to their sociality. Ant behaviour is typically observed visually, however there are many circumstances where visual observation is not possible. It may be possible to assess ant behaviour using vibration signals produced by their physical movement. We demonstrate through a series of bioassays with different stimuli that the level of activity of meat ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus) can be quantified using vibrations, corresponding to observations with video. We found that ants exposed to physical shaking produced the highest average vibration amplitudes followed by ants with stones to drag, then ants with neighbours, illuminated ants and ants in darkness. In addition, we devised a novel method based on wavelet decomposition to separate the vibration signal owing to the initial ant behaviour from the substrate response, which will allow signals recorded from different substrates to be compared directly. Our results indicate the potential to use vibration signals to classify some ant behaviours in situations where visual observation could be difficult. PMID:24658467

  18. Team swimming in ant spermatozoa

    PubMed Central

    Pearcy, Morgan; Delescaille, Noémie; Lybaert, Pascale; Aron, Serge

    2014-01-01

    In species where females mate promiscuously, competition between ejaculates from different males to fertilize the ova is an important selective force shaping many aspects of male reproductive traits, such as sperm number, sperm length and sperm–sperm interactions. In eusocial Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants), males die shortly after mating and their reproductive success is ultimately limited by the amount of sperm stored in the queen's spermatheca. Multiple mating by queens is expected to impose intense selective pressure on males to optimize the transfer of sperm to the storage organ. Here, we report a remarkable case of cooperation between spermatozoa in the desert ant Cataglyphis savignyi. Males ejaculate bundles of 50–100 spermatozoa. Sperm bundles swim on average 51% faster than solitary sperm cells. Team swimming is expected to increase the amount of sperm stored in the queen spermatheca and, ultimately, enhance male posthumous fitness. PMID:24919705

  19. Synergistic effects of three Piper amides on generalist and specialist herbivores.

    PubMed

    Dyer, L A; Dodson, C D; Stireman, J O; Tobler, M A; Smilanich, A M; Fincher, R M; Letourneau, D K

    2003-11-01

    The tropical rainforest shrub Piper cenocladum, which is normally defended against herbivores by a mutualistic ant, contains three amides that have various defensive functions. While the ants are effective primarily against specialist herbivores, we hypothesized that these secondary compounds would be effective against a wider range of insects, thus providing a broad array of defenses against herbivores. We also tested whether a mixture of amides would be more effective against herbivores than individual amides. Diets spiked with amides were offered to five herbivores: a naïve generalist caterpillar (Spodoptera frugiperda), two caterpillar species that are monophagous on P. cenocladum (Eois spp.), leaf-cutting ants (Atta cephalotes), and an omnivorous ant (Paraponera clavata). Amides had negative effects on all insects, whether they were naïve, experienced, generalized, or specialized feeders. For Spodoptera, amide mixtures caused decreased pupal weights and survivorship and increased development times. Eois pupal weights, larval mass gain, and development times were affected by additions of individual amides, but increased parasitism and lower survivorship were caused only by the amide mixture. Amide mixtures also deterred feeding by the two ant species, and crude plant extracts were strongly deterrent to P. clavata. The mixture of all three amides had the most dramatic deterrent and toxic effects across experiments, with the effects usually surpassing expected additive responses, indicating that these compounds can act synergistically against a wide array of herbivores. PMID:14682530

  20. Revolutionizing Remote Exploration with ANTS

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Clark, P. E.; Rilee, M. L.; Curtis, S.; Truszkowski, W.

    2002-05-01

    We are developing the Autonomous Nano-Technology Swarm (ANTS) architecture based on an insect colony analogue for the cost-effective, efficient, systematic survey of remote or inaccessible areas with multiple object targets, including planetary surface, marine, airborne, and space environments. The mission context is the exploration in the 2020s of the most compelling remaining targets in the solar system: main belt asteroids. Main belt asteroids harbor important clues to Solar System origins and evolution which are central to NASA's goals in Space Science. Asteroids are smaller than planets, but their number is far greater, and their combined surface area likely dwarfs the Earth's. An asteroid survey will dramatically increase our understanding of the local resources available for the Human Exploration and Development of Space. During the mission composition, shape, gravity, and orbit parameters could be returned to Earth for perhaps several thousand asteroids. A survey of this area will rival the great explorations that encircled this globe, opened up the New World, and laid the groundwork for the progress and challenges of the last centuries. The ANTS architecture for a main belt survey consists of a swarm of as many as a thousand or more highly specialized pico-spacecraft that form teams to survey as many as one hundred asteroids a month. Multi-level autonomy is critical for ANTS and the objective of the proposed study is to work through the implications and constraints this entails. ANTS couples biologically inspired autonomic control for basic functions to higher level artificial intelligence that together enable individual spacecraft to operate as specialized, cooperative, social agents. This revolutionary approach postulates highly advanced, but familiar, components integrated and operated in a way that uniquely transcends any evolutionary extrapolation of existing trends and enables thousand-spacecraft missions.

  1. Fire ant-detecting canines: a complementary method in detecting red imported fire ants.

    PubMed

    Lin, Hui-Min; Chi, Wei-Lien; Lin, Chung-Chi; Tseng, Yu-Ching; Chen, Wang-Ting; Kung, Yu-Ling; Lien, Yi-Yang; Chen, Yang-Yuan

    2011-02-01

    In this investigation, detection dogs are trained and used in identifying red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren, and their nests. The methodology could assist in reducing the frequency and scope of chemical treatments for red imported fire ant management and thus reduce labor costs and chemical use as well as improve control and quarantine efficiency. Three dogs previously trained for customs quarantine were retrained to detect the scents of red imported fire ants. After passing tests involving different numbers of live red imported fire ants and three other ant species--Crematogaster rogenhoferi Mayr, Paratrechina longicornis Latreille, and Pheidole megacephala F.--placed in containers, ajoint field survey for red imported fire ant nests by detection dogs and bait traps was conducted to demonstrate their use as a supplement to conventional detection methods. The most significant findings in this report are (1) with 10 or more red imported fire ants in scent containers, the dogs had >98% chance in tracing the red imported fire ant. Upon the introduction of other ant species, the dogs still achieved on average, a 93% correct red imported fire ant indication rate. Moreover, the dogs demonstrated great competence in pinpointing emerging and smaller red imported fire ant nests in red imported fire ant-infested areas that had been previously confirmed by bait trap stations. (2) Along with the bait trap method, we also discovered that approximately 90% of red imported fire ants foraged within a distance of 14 m away from their nests. The results prove detection dogs to be most effective for red imported fire ant control in areas that have been previously treated with pesticides and therefore containing a low density of remaining red imported fire ant nests. Furthermore, as a complement to other red imported fire ant monitoring methods, this strategy will significantly increase the efficacy of red imported fire ant control in cases of individual mount treatment

  2. Usefulness of fire ant genetics in insecticide efficacy trials

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Mature fire ant colonies contain an average of 80,000 worker ants. For this study, eight fire ant workers were randomly sampled from each colony. DNA fingerprints for each individual ant were generated using 21 simple sequence repeats (SSR) markers that were developed from fire ant DNA by other lab...

  3. Blind and myopic ants in heterogeneous networks

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Hwang, S.; Lee, D.-S.; Kahng, B.

    2014-11-01

    The diffusion processes on complex networks may be described by different Laplacian matrices due to heterogeneous connectivity. Here we investigate the random walks of blind ants and myopic ants on heterogeneous networks: While a myopic ant hops to a neighbor node every step, a blind ant may stay or hop with probabilities that depend on node connectivity. By analyzing the trajectories of blind ants, we show that the asymptotic behaviors of both random walks are related by rescaling time and probability with node connectivity. Using this result, we show how the small eigenvalues of the Laplacian matrices generating the two random walks are related. As an application, we show how the return-to-origin probability of a myopic ant can be used to compute the scaling behaviors of the Edwards-Wilkinson model, a representative model of load balancing on networks.

  4. Blind and myopic ants in heterogeneous networks.

    PubMed

    Hwang, S; Lee, D-S; Kahng, B

    2014-11-01

    The diffusion processes on complex networks may be described by different Laplacian matrices due to heterogeneous connectivity. Here we investigate the random walks of blind ants and myopic ants on heterogeneous networks: While a myopic ant hops to a neighbor node every step, a blind ant may stay or hop with probabilities that depend on node connectivity. By analyzing the trajectories of blind ants, we show that the asymptotic behaviors of both random walks are related by rescaling time and probability with node connectivity. Using this result, we show how the small eigenvalues of the Laplacian matrices generating the two random walks are related. As an application, we show how the return-to-origin probability of a myopic ant can be used to compute the scaling behaviors of the Edwards-Wilkinson model, a representative model of load balancing on networks. PMID:25493841

  5. Symbiont recruitment versus ant-symbiont co-evolution in the attine ant-microbe symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Mueller, Ulrich G

    2012-06-01

    The symbiosis between fungus-farming ants (Attini, Formicidae), their cultivated fungi, garden-infecting Escovopsis pathogens, and Pseudonocardia bacteria on the ant integument has been popularized as an example of ant-Escovopsis-Pseudonocardia co-evolution. Recent research could not verify earlier conclusions regarding antibiotic-secreting, integumental Pseudonocardia that co-evolve to specifically suppress Escovopsis disease in an ancient co-evolutionary arms-race. Rather than long-term association with a single, co-evolving Pseudonocardia strain, attine ants accumulate complex, dynamic biofilms on their integument and in their gardens. Emerging views are that the integumental biofilms protect the ants primarily against ant diseases, whereas garden biofilms protect primarily against garden diseases; attine ants selectively recruit ('screen in') microbes into their biofilms; and the biofilms of ants and gardens serve diverse functions beyond disease-suppression. PMID:22445196

  6. An Efficient Ant-Based Edge Detector

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Aydın, Doğan

    An efficient ant-based edge detector is presented. It is based on the distribution of ants on an image, ants try to find possible edges by using a state transition function based on 5x5 edge structures. Visual comparisons show that the proposed method gives finer details and thinner edges at lesser computational times when compared to earlier ant-based approaches. When compared to standard edge detectors, it shows robustness to Gaussian and Salt & Pepper noise and provides finer details than others with same parameter set in both clear and noisy images.

  7. Major evolutionary transitions in ant agriculture

    PubMed Central

    Schultz, Ted R.; Brady, Seán G.

    2008-01-01

    Agriculture is a specialized form of symbiosis that is known to have evolved in only four animal groups: humans, bark beetles, termites, and ants. Here, we reconstruct the major evolutionary transitions that produced the five distinct agricultural systems of the fungus-growing ants, the most well studied of the nonhuman agriculturalists. We do so with reference to the first fossil-calibrated, multiple-gene, molecular phylogeny that incorporates the full range of taxonomic diversity within the fungus-growing ant tribe Attini. Our analyses indicate that the original form of ant agriculture, the cultivation of a diverse subset of fungal species in the tribe Leucocoprineae, evolved ≈50 million years ago in the Neotropics, coincident with the early Eocene climatic optimum. During the past 30 million years, three known ant agricultural systems, each involving a phylogenetically distinct set of derived fungal cultivars, have separately arisen from the original agricultural system. One of these derived systems subsequently gave rise to the fifth known system of agriculture, in which a single fungal species is cultivated by leaf-cutter ants. Leaf-cutter ants evolved remarkably recently (≈8–12 million years ago) to become the dominant herbivores of the New World tropics. Our analyses identify relict, extant attine ant species that occupy phylogenetic positions that are transitional between the agricultural systems. Intensive study of those species holds particular promise for clarifying the sequential accretion of ecological and behavioral characters that produced each of the major ant agricultural systems. PMID:18362345

  8. Plants in Your Ants: Using Ant Mounds to Test Basic Ecological Principles

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Zettler, Jennifer A.; Collier, Alexander; Leidersdorf, Bil; Sanou, Missa Patrick

    2010-01-01

    Urban students often have limited access to field sites for ecological studies. Ubiquitous ants and their mounds can be used to study and test ecology-based questions. We describe how soil collected from ant mounds can be used to investigate how biotic factors (ants) can affect abiotic factors in the soil that can, in turn, influence plant growth.

  9. ANT2-defective fibroblasts exhibit normal mitochondrial bioenergetics

    PubMed Central

    Prabhu, Dolly; Goldstein, Amy C.; El-Khoury, Riyad; Rak, Malgorzata; Edmunds, Lia; Rustin, Pierre; Vockley, Jerry; Schiff, Manuel

    2015-01-01

    Adenine nucleotide translocase 2 (ANT2) transports glycolytic ATP across the inner mitochondrial membrane. Patients with ANT2 deletion were recently reported. We aimed at characterizing mitochondrial functions in ANT2-defective fibroblasts. In spite of ANT2 expression in fibroblasts, we observed no difference between ANT2-defective and control fibroblasts for mitochondrial respiration, respiratory chain activities, mitochondrial membrane potential and intracellular ATP levels. This indicates that ANT2 insufficiency does not alter fibroblast basal mitochondrial bioenergetics. PMID:26000237

  10. Ant-seed mutualisms: Can red imported fire ants sour the relationship?

    USGS Publications Warehouse

    Zettler, J.A.; Spira, T.P.; Allen, C.R.

    2001-01-01

    Invasion by the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, has had negative impacts on individual animal and plant species, but little is known about how S. invicta affects complex mutualistic relationships. In some eastern forests of North America, 30% of herbaceous species have ant-dispersed seeds. We conducted experiments to determine if fire ants are attracted to seeds of these plant species and assessed the amount of scarification or damage that results from handling by fire ants. Fire ants removed nearly 100% of seeds of the ant-dispersed plants Trillium undulatum, T. discolor, T. catesbaei, Viola rotundifolia, and Sanguinaria canadensis. In recovered seeds fed to ant colonies, fire ants scarified 80% of S. canadensis seeds and destroyed 86% of V. rotundifolia seeds. Our study is the first to document that red imported fire ants are attracted to and remove seeds of species adapted for ant dispersal. Moreover, fire ants might damage these seeds and discard them in sites unfavorable for germination and seedling establishment. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

  11. Extrafloral nectar fuels ant life in deserts.

    PubMed

    Aranda-Rickert, Adriana; Diez, Patricia; Marazzi, Brigitte

    2014-01-01

    Interactions mediated by extrafloral nectary (EFN)-bearing plants that reward ants with a sweet liquid secretion are well documented in temperate and tropical habitats. However, their distribution and abundance in deserts are poorly known. In this study, we test the predictions that biotic interactions between EFN plants and ants are abundant and common also in arid communities and that EFNs are only functional when new vegetative and reproductive structures are developing. In a seasonal desert of northwestern Argentina, we surveyed the richness and phenology of EFN plants and their associated ants and examined the patterns in ant-plant interaction networks. We found that 25 ant species and 11 EFN-bearing plant species were linked together through 96 pairs of associations. Plants bearing EFNs were abundant, representing ca. 19 % of the species encountered in transects and 24 % of the plant cover. Most ant species sampled (ca. 77 %) fed on EF nectar. Interactions showed a marked seasonal pattern: EFN secretion was directly related to plant phenology and correlated with the time of highest ant ground activity. Our results reveal that EFN-mediated interactions are ecologically relevant components of deserts, and that EFN-bearing plants are crucial for the survival of desert ant communities. PMID:25381258

  12. The Biochemical Toxin Arsenal from Ant Venoms

    PubMed Central

    Touchard, Axel; Aili, Samira R.; Fox, Eduardo Gonçalves Paterson; Escoubas, Pierre; Orivel, Jérôme; Nicholson, Graham M.; Dejean, Alain

    2016-01-01

    Ants (Formicidae) represent a taxonomically diverse group of hymenopterans with over 13,000 extant species, the majority of which inject or spray secretions from a venom gland. The evolutionary success of ants is mostly due to their unique eusociality that has permitted them to develop complex collaborative strategies, partly involving their venom secretions, to defend their nest against predators, microbial pathogens, ant competitors, and to hunt prey. Activities of ant venom include paralytic, cytolytic, haemolytic, allergenic, pro-inflammatory, insecticidal, antimicrobial, and pain-producing pharmacologic activities, while non-toxic functions include roles in chemical communication involving trail and sex pheromones, deterrents, and aggregators. While these diverse activities in ant venoms have until now been largely understudied due to the small venom yield from ants, modern analytical and venomic techniques are beginning to reveal the diversity of toxin structure and function. As such, ant venoms are distinct from other venomous animals, not only rich in linear, dimeric and disulfide-bonded peptides and bioactive proteins, but also other volatile and non-volatile compounds such as alkaloids and hydrocarbons. The present review details the unique structures and pharmacologies of known ant venom proteinaceous and alkaloidal toxins and their potential as a source of novel bioinsecticides and therapeutic agents. PMID:26805882

  13. The Biochemical Toxin Arsenal from Ant Venoms.

    PubMed

    Touchard, Axel; Aili, Samira R; Fox, Eduardo Gonçalves Paterson; Escoubas, Pierre; Orivel, Jérôme; Nicholson, Graham M; Dejean, Alain

    2016-01-01

    Ants (Formicidae) represent a taxonomically diverse group of hymenopterans with over 13,000 extant species, the majority of which inject or spray secretions from a venom gland. The evolutionary success of ants is mostly due to their unique eusociality that has permitted them to develop complex collaborative strategies, partly involving their venom secretions, to defend their nest against predators, microbial pathogens, ant competitors, and to hunt prey. Activities of ant venom include paralytic, cytolytic, haemolytic, allergenic, pro-inflammatory, insecticidal, antimicrobial, and pain-producing pharmacologic activities, while non-toxic functions include roles in chemical communication involving trail and sex pheromones, deterrents, and aggregators. While these diverse activities in ant venoms have until now been largely understudied due to the small venom yield from ants, modern analytical and venomic techniques are beginning to reveal the diversity of toxin structure and function. As such, ant venoms are distinct from other venomous animals, not only rich in linear, dimeric and disulfide-bonded peptides and bioactive proteins, but also other volatile and non-volatile compounds such as alkaloids and hydrocarbons. The present review details the unique structures and pharmacologies of known ant venom proteinaceous and alkaloidal toxins and their potential as a source of novel bioinsecticides and therapeutic agents. PMID:26805882

  14. CONTROL FIRE ANTS BY USING DECAPITATING FLIES

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Researchers with the USDA, ARS Biological Control of Pests Research Unit are rearing Pseudacteon curvatus, a tiny fly in the family Phoridae that parasitizes and kills imported fire ants. The flies only attack fire ants, and are not attracted to vegetables (12 kinds), fruit (13 kinds), raw meat (7 ...

  15. Ants cushion applied stress by active rearrangements

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Liu, Zhongyang; Hyatt, John; Mlot, Nathan; Gerov, Michael; Fernandez-Nieves, Alberto; Hu, David

    2013-11-01

    Fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, link their bodies together to form waterproof rafts, which in turn drip, spread, and coagulate, demonstrating properties of an active material that can change state from a liquid to a solid. This soft-matter phase transition is important when the raft interacts with environmental forces such as raindrops and crashing waves. We study this active behavior through plate-on-plate rheology on the ants, extracting the active components by comparison with the rheological behavior of a collection of dead ants. In controlled shear tests, both and live and dead ants show properties of a non-Newtonian fluid, specifically, shear-thinning behavior. In oscillatory tests, live ants exhibit a rare behavior in which their storage modulus (G') and loss modulus (G'') have approximately the same value over three orders magnitudes of frequency and two orders of magnitude of strain, indicating the ants are neither fluid nor solid. In comparison, dead ants are more solid-like, with a storage modulus twice as large as their loss modulus. This striking active behavior arises from rearrangement of their bodies and storage and dissipation of energy with the ants' muscles.

  16. Urban Pest Management of Ants in California

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Keeping pace with the dynamic and evolving landscape of invasive ants in California presents a formidable challenge to the pest management industry. Pest management professionals (PMPs) are on the frontlines when it comes to battling these exotic ant pests, and are often the first ones to intercept ...

  17. The Complexity of Fire Ant Nestmate Recognition

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Fire ants, Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri, were inadvertently introduced into the United States in the early 1900s and currently inhabit over 129 million hectares in Puerto Rico and twelve southern states from Texas to Virginia. Imported fire ants have also become established in isolated...

  18. Area-wide Suppression of Fire Ants

    Technology Transfer Automated Retrieval System (TEKTRAN)

    Fire ants, Solenopsis richteri and Solenopsis invicta, infest over 129.5 million ha in the USA. Fire ants, with their tremendous reproduction, mobility, and ability to occupy a wide range of habitats make their eradication very difficult. In the USA, rapid and extensive spread of these stinging an...

  19. Spectacular Batesian mimicry in ants

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Ito, Fuminori; Hashim, Rosli; Huei, Yek Sze; Kaufmann, Eva; Akino, Toshiharu; Billen, Johan

    2004-10-01

    The mechanism by which palatable species take advantage of their similarity in appearance to those that are unpalatable, in order to avoid predation, is called Batesian mimicry. Several arthropods are thought to be Batesian mimics of social insects; however, social insects that are Batesian mimics among themselves are rare. In Malaysia we found a possible Batesian mimic in an arboreal ant species, Camponotus sp., which was exclusively observed on foraging trails of the myrmicine ant Crematogaster inflata. The bright yellow and black colouring pattern, as well as the walking behaviour, were very similar in both species. We observed general interactions between the two species, and tested their palatability and the significance of the remarkably similar visual colour patterns for predator avoidance. Prey offered to C. inflata was also eaten by Camponotus workers in spite of their being attacked by C. inflata, indicating that Camponotus sp. is a commensal of C. inflata. An experiment with chicks as potential predators suggests that Camponotus sp. is palatable whereas C. inflata is unpalatable. After tasting C. inflata, the chicks no longer attacked Camponotus sp., indicating that Camponotus sp. is a Batesian mimic of Crematogaster inflata.

  20. Spectacular Batesian mimicry in ants.

    PubMed

    Ito, Fuminori; Hashim, Rosli; Huei, Yek Sze; Kaufmann, Eva; Akino, Toshiharu; Billen, Johan

    2004-10-01

    The mechanism by which palatable species take advantage of their similarity in appearance to those that are unpalatable, in order to avoid predation, is called Batesian mimicry. Several arthropods are thought to be Batesian mimics of social insects; however, social insects that are Batesian mimics among themselves are rare. In Malaysia we found a possible Batesian mimic in an arboreal ant species, Camponotus sp., which was exclusively observed on foraging trails of the myrmicine ant Crematogaster inflata. The bright yellow and black colouring pattern, as well as the walking behaviour, were very similar in both species. We observed general interactions between the two species, and tested their palatability and the significance of the remarkably similar visual colour patterns for predator avoidance. Prey offered to C. inflata was also eaten by Camponotus workers in spite of their being attacked by C. inflata, indicating that Camponotus sp. is a commensal of C. inflata. An experiment with chicks as potential predators suggests that Camponotus sp. is palatable whereas C. inflata is unpalatable. After tasting C. inflata, the chicks no longer attacked Camponotus sp., indicating that Camponotus sp. is a Batesian mimic of Crematogaster inflata. PMID:15729761

  1. Urban ants and transportation of nosocomial bacteria.

    PubMed

    Rodovalho, Cynara M; Santos, Ana L; Marcolino, Marcus T; Bonetti, Ana M; Brandeburgo, Malcon A M

    2007-01-01

    Many ant species displaying synanthropic behavior that have successfully dispersed in urban areas can cause problems in hospitals by acting as bacterial vectors. In this study, we encountered bacteria on ants collected at the Universidade Federal de Uberlândia hospital, in the campus and at households nearby. The ants were identified as Tapinoma melanocephalum (Fabricius) and Camponotus vittatus (Forel) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and the bacterial strains found here belong to the group of the coagulase-positive staphylococcus, coagulase-negative staphylococcus and gram negative bacilli, including antimicrobial drug-resistant strains. An investigation of the bacteria found in the ants and in the environment revealed that some ants carried non-isolated bacteria from the same environment and with high levels of resistance, evidencing the transmission potential of these insects. PMID:17710329

  2. Microtubules viewed as molecular ant colonies.

    PubMed

    Tabony, James

    2006-10-01

    Populations of ants and other social insects self-organize and develop 'emergent' properties through stigmergy in which individual ants communicate with one another via chemical trails of pheromones that attract or repulse other ants. In this way, sophisticated properties and functions develop. Under appropriate conditions, in vitro microtubule preparations, initially comprised of only tubulin and GTP, behave in a similar manner. They self-organize and develop other higher-level emergent phenomena by a process where individual microtubules are coupled together by the chemical trails they produce by their own reactive growing and shrinking. This behaviour is described and compared with the behaviour of ant colonies. Viewing microtubules as populations of molecular ants may provide new insights as to how the cytoskeleton may spontaneously develop high-level functions. It is plausible that such processes occur during the early stages of embryogenesis and in cells. PMID:16968217

  3. Uncovering the complexity of ant foraging trails.

    PubMed

    Czaczkes, Tomer J; Grüter, Christoph; Jones, Sam M; Ratnieks, Francis L W

    2012-01-01

    The common garden ant Lasius niger use both trail pheromones and memory of past visits to navigate to and from food sources. In a recent paper we demonstrated a synergistic effect between route memory and trail pheromones: the presence of trail pheromones results in experienced ants walking straighter and faster. We also found that experienced ants leaving a pheromone trail deposit less pheromone. Here we focus on another finding of the experiment: the presence of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), which are used as home range markers by ants, also affects pheromone deposition behavior. When walking on a trail on which CHCs are present but trail pheromones are not, experienced foragers deposit less pheromone on the outward journey than on the return journey. The regulatory mechanisms ants use during foraging and recruitment behavior is subtle and complex, affected by multiple interacting factors such as route memory, travel direction and the presence trail pheromone and home-range markings. PMID:22482017

  4. Spatiotemporal chemotactic model for ant foraging

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Ramakrishnan, Subramanian; Laurent, Thomas; Kumar, Manish; Bertozzi, Andrea L.

    2014-12-01

    In this paper, we present a generic theoretical chemotactic model that accounts for certain emergent behaviors observed in ant foraging. The model does not have many of the constraints and limitations of existing models for ants colony dynamics and takes into account the distinctly different behaviors exhibited in nature by ant foragers in search of food and food ferrying ants. Numerical simulations based on the model show trail formation in foraging ant colonies to be an emergent phenomenon and, in particular, replicate behavior observed in experiments involving the species P. megacephala. The results have broader implications for the study of randomness in chemotactic models. Potential applications include the developments of novel algorithms for stochastic search in engineered complex systems such as robotic swarms.

  5. Ants defend aphids against lethal disease.

    PubMed

    Nielsen, Charlotte; Agrawal, Anurag A; Hajek, Ann E

    2010-04-23

    Social insects defend their own colonies and some species also protect their mutualist partners. In mutualisms with aphids, ants typically feed on honeydew produced by aphids and, in turn guard and shelter aphid colonies from insect natural enemies. Here we report that Formica podzolica ants tending milkweed aphids, Aphis asclepiadis, protect aphid colonies from lethal fungal infections caused by an obligate aphid pathogen, Pandora neoaphidis. In field experiments, bodies of fungal-killed aphids were quickly removed from ant-tended aphid colonies. Ant workers were also able to detect infective conidia on the cuticle of living aphids and responded by either removing or grooming these aphids. Our results extend the long-standing view of ants as mutualists and protectors of aphids by demonstrating focused sanitizing and quarantining behaviour that may lead to reduced disease transmission in aphid colonies. PMID:19923138

  6. Cryptococcus neoformans carried by Odontomachus bauri ants.

    PubMed

    Jesus, Mariana Santos de; Rodrigues, William Costa; Barbosa, Glaucia; Trilles, Luciana; Wanke, Bodo; Lazéra, Márcia dos Santos; Silva, Manuela da

    2012-06-01

    Cryptococcus neoformans is the most common causative agent of cryptococcosis worldwide. Although this fungus has been isolated from a variety of organic substrates, several studies suggest that hollow trees constitute an important natural niche for C. neoformans. A previously surveyed hollow of a living pink shower tree (Cassia grandis) positive for C. neoformans in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was chosen for further investigation. Odontomachus bauri ants (trap-jaw ants) found inside the hollow were collected for evaluation as possible carriers of Cryptococcus spp. Two out of 10 ants were found to carry phenoloxidase-positive colonies identified as C. neoformans molecular types VNI and VNII. The ants may have acted as a mechanical vector of C. neoformans and possibly contributed to the dispersal of the fungi from one substrate to another. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on the association of C. neoformans with ants of the genus Odontomachus. PMID:22666855

  7. [The ants: a strategy of population concentration].

    PubMed

    Zakharov, A A

    2011-01-01

    Ants are provided with a balanced system of reactions either to the original paucity of socia or to their secondary depopulation. This system can be defined as a strategy of population concentration. Both a successful reproduction of workers and queen fertilization are necessary conditions for ant communities' survival and development. Thus, the anthills must be large enough to ensure optimal conditions for reproduction. It is the strategy of population concentration that is directed to an accelerated attainment (or rehabilitation) by a socium of a state of stable development by way of concentrating the existent ant staff in an accessible number of viable nests. This strategy is realized throughout the life of ant communities by way of (a) fusing the starting family cells left by founder females, (b) fusing small anthills during artificial ant migrations, (c) uniting smaller socia or their joining other anthills, (d) reintegrating the secondary anthills (fragmentants) after an exogenous fragmentation of formicaries. Pooling and the attraction of deficient demographic resources from outside form the most efficient and quickest ways of reaching or restoring the threshold density levels. By realizing this strategy, the ants solve their paramount problems of anthill or settlement conservation at any particular time, as well as of providing some prospects for ant existence in the future. These problems are so vital for ant socia that they appear to hold priority over such other characteristics of utmost importance as genetic kinship or even species identity. The priority of social basics over genetic ones is unequivocally supported through mixed formicaries. A necessary condition for the realization of the strategy of population concentration is tolerance of highly developed social systems to the diversity of forms and to deviations from the norm. The use of one and the same mechanism at all stages of the life both of an individual socium and large ant settlements is

  8. FDTD-ANT User Manual

    NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)

    Zimmerman, Martin L.

    1995-01-01

    This manual explains the theory and operation of the finite-difference time domain code FDTD-ANT developed by Analex Corporation at the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. This code can be used for solving electromagnetic problems that are electrically small or medium (on the order of 1 to 50 cubic wavelengths). Calculated parameters include transmission line impedance, relative effective permittivity, antenna input impedance, and far-field patterns in both the time and frequency domains. The maximum problem size may be adjusted according to the computer used. This code has been run on the DEC VAX and 486 PC's and on workstations such as the Sun Sparc and the IBM RS/6000.

  9. Ant-Based Cyber Security

    SciTech Connect

    Haack, Jereme N.; Fink, Glenn A.; Maiden, Wendy M.; McKinnon, Archibald D.; Templeton, Steven J.; Fulp, Errin W.

    2011-07-12

    We describe a swarming-agent-based, mixed-initiative approach to infrastructure defense where teams of humans and software agents defend cooperating organizations in tandem by sharing insights and solutions without violating proprietary boundaries. The system places human administrators at the appropriate level where they provide system guidance while lower-level agents carry out tasks humans are unable to perform quickly enough to mitigate today’s security threats. Cooperative Infrastructure Defense (CID) uses our ant-based approach to enable dialogue between humans and agents to foster a collaborative problem-solving environment, increase human situational awareness and influence using visualization and shared control. We discuss theoretical implementation characteristics along with results from recent proof-of-concept implementations.

  10. Spatial patterns in ant colonies.

    PubMed

    Theraulaz, Guy; Bonabeau, Eric; Nicolis, Stamatios C; Solé, Ricard V; Fourcassié, Vincent; Blanco, Stéphane; Fournier, Richard; Joly, Jean-Louis; Fernández, Pau; Grimal, Anne; Dalle, Patrice; Deneubourg, Jean-Louis

    2002-07-23

    The origins of large-scale spatial patterns in biology have been an important source of theoretical speculation since the pioneering work by Turing (1952) on the chemical basis of morphogenesis. Knowing how these patterns emerge and their functional role is important to our understanding of the evolution of biocomplexity and the role played by self organization. However, so far, conclusive evidence for local activation-long-range inhibition mechanisms in real biological systems has been elusive. Here a well-defined experimental and theoretical analysis of the pattern formation dynamics exhibited by clustering behavior in ant colonies is presented. These experiments and a simple mathematical model show that these colonies do indeed use this type of mechanism. All microscopic variables have been measured and provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, for this type of self-organized behavior in complex biological systems, supporting early conjectures about its role in the organization of insect societies. PMID:12114538