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Sample records for leaf-cutting ants atta

  1. A volatile trail Pheromone of the Leaf-Cutting Ant, Atta Texana

    Treesearch

    J. H. Tumlinson; John C. Moser; R. M. Silverstein; R. G. Brownlee; J. M. Ruth

    1972-01-01

    The major volatile trail-marking pheromone of the Texas leaf-cutting Ant, Atta texana, was isolated, identified as methyl 4-methylpyrrole-2-carboxylate, and synthesized. The synthesized pheromone elicited strong trail-following response from workers in the laboratory and field.

  2. Genetic caste polymorphism and the evolution of polyandry in Atta leaf-cutting ants

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Evison, Sophie Elizabeth Frances; Hughes, William O. H.

    2011-08-01

    Multiple mating by females with different males (polyandry) is difficult to explain in many taxa because it carries significant costs to females, yet benefits are often hard to identify. Polyandry is a derived trait in social insects, the evolutionary origins of which remain unclear. One of several leading hypotheses for its evolution is that it improves division of labour by increasing intra-colonial genetic diversity. Division of labour is a key player in the ecological success of social insects, and in many successful species of ants is based on morphologically distinct castes of workers, each with their own task specialisations. Atta leaf-cutting ants exhibit one of the most extreme and complicated forms of morphologically specialised worker castes and have been reported to be polyandrous but with relatively low mating frequencies (~2.5 on average). Here, we show for the first time that there is a significant genetic influence on worker size in Atta colombica leaf-cutting ants. We also provide the first estimate of the mating frequency of Atta cephalotes (four matings) and, by analysing much higher within-colony sample sizes, find that Atta are more polyandrous than previously thought (approximately six to seven matings). The results show that high polyandry and a genetic influence on worker caste are present in both genera of leaf-cutting ants and add weight to the hypothesis that division of labour is a potential driver of the evolution of polyandry in this clade of ants.

  3. Genetic caste polymorphism and the evolution of polyandry in Atta leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Evison, Sophie Elizabeth Frances; Hughes, William O H

    2011-08-01

    Multiple mating by females with different males (polyandry) is difficult to explain in many taxa because it carries significant costs to females, yet benefits are often hard to identify. Polyandry is a derived trait in social insects, the evolutionary origins of which remain unclear. One of several leading hypotheses for its evolution is that it improves division of labour by increasing intra-colonial genetic diversity. Division of labour is a key player in the ecological success of social insects, and in many successful species of ants is based on morphologically distinct castes of workers, each with their own task specialisations. Atta leaf-cutting ants exhibit one of the most extreme and complicated forms of morphologically specialised worker castes and have been reported to be polyandrous but with relatively low mating frequencies (~2.5 on average). Here, we show for the first time that there is a significant genetic influence on worker size in Atta colombica leaf-cutting ants. We also provide the first estimate of the mating frequency of Atta cephalotes (four matings) and, by analysing much higher within-colony sample sizes, find that Atta are more polyandrous than previously thought (approximately six to seven matings). The results show that high polyandry and a genetic influence on worker caste are present in both genera of leaf-cutting ants and add weight to the hypothesis that division of labour is a potential driver of the evolution of polyandry in this clade of ants.

  4. Association between Pseudonocardia symbionts and Atta leaf-cutting ants suggested by improved isolation methods.

    PubMed

    Marsh, Sarah E; Poulsen, Michael; Gorosito, Norma B; Pinto-Tomás, Adrián; Masiulionis, Virginia E; Currie, Cameron R

    2013-03-01

    Fungus-growing ants associate with multiple symbiotic microbes, including Actinobacteria for production of antibiotics. The best studied of these bacteria are within the genus Pseudonocardia, which in most fungus-growing ants are conspicuously visible on the external cuticle of workers. However, given that fungus-growing ants in the genus Atta do not carry visible Actinobacteria on their cuticle, it is unclear if this genus engages in the symbiosis with Pseudonocardia. Here we explore whether improving culturing techniques can allow for successful isolation of Pseudonocardia from Atta cephalotes leaf-cutting ants. We obtained Pseudonocardia from 9 of 11 isolation method/colony component combinations from all 5 colonies intensively sampled. The most efficient technique was bead-beating workers in phosphate buffer solution, then plating the suspension on carboxymethylcellulose medium. Placing these strains in a fungus-growing ant-associated Pseudonocardia phylogeny revealed that while some strains grouped with clades of Pseudonocardia associated with other genera of fungus-growing ants, a large portion of the isolates fell into two novel phylogenetic clades previously not identified from this ant-microbe symbiosis. Our findings suggest that Pseudonocardia may be associated with Atta fungus-growing ants, potentially internalized, and that localizing the symbiont and exploring its role is necessary to shed further light on the association.

  5. Bacterial microbiomes from vertically transmitted fungal inocula of the leaf-cutting ant Atta texana.

    PubMed

    Meirelles, Lucas A; McFrederick, Quinn S; Rodrigues, Andre; Mantovani, Joana D; de Melo Rodovalho, Cynara; Ferreira, Henrique; Bacci, Maurício; Mueller, Ulrich G

    2016-06-06

    Microbiome surveys provide clues for the functional roles of symbiotic microbial communities and their hosts. In this study, we elucidated bacterial microbiomes associated with the vertically transmitted fungal inocula (pellets) used by foundress queens of the leaf-cutting ant Atta texana as starter-cultures for new gardens. As reference microbiomes, we also surveyed bacterial microbiomes of foundress queens, gardens and brood of incipient nests. Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Propionibacterium and Corynebacterium were consistently present in high abundance in microbiomes. Some pellet and ant samples contained abundant bacteria from an Entomoplasmatales-clade, and a separate PCR-based survey of Entomoplasmatales bacteria in eight attine ant-genera from Brazil placed these bacteria in a monophyletic clade within the bacterial genus Mesoplasma. The attine ant-Mesoplasma association parallels a similar association between a closely related, monophyletic Entomoplasmatales-clade and army ants. Of thirteen A. texana nests surveyed, three nests with exceptionally high Mesoplasma abundance died, whereas the other nests survived. It is unclear whether Mesoplasma was the primary cause of mortality, or Mesoplasma became abundant in moribund nests for non-pathogenic reasons. However, the consistent and geographically widespread presence of Mesoplasma suggests an important functional role in the association with attine ants.

  6. Wind-induced ventilation of the giant nests of the leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Kleineidam, Christoph; Ernst, Roman; Roces, Flavio

    2001-06-01

    To understand the significance of elaborate nest architecture for the control of nest climate, we investigated the mechanisms governing nest ventilation in a large field nest of Atta vollenweideri. Surface wind, drawing air from the central tunnels of the nest mound, was observed to be the main driving force for nest ventilation during summer. This mechanism of wind-induced ventilation has so far not been described for social insect colonies. Thermal convection, another possible force driving ventilation, contributed very little. According to their predominant airflow direction, two functionally distinct tunnel groups were identified: outflow tunnels in the upper, central region, and inflow tunnels in the lower, peripheral region of the nest mound. The function of the tunnels was independent of wind direction. Outflow of air through the central tunnels was followed by a delayed inflow through the peripheral tunnels. Leaf-cutting ants design the tunnel openings on the top of the nest with turrets which may reinforce wind-induced nest ventilation.

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

    PubMed

    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.

  8. Thermal radiation as a learned orientation cue in leaf-cutting ants (Atta vollenweideri).

    PubMed

    Kleineidam, C J; Ruchty, M; Casero-Montes, Z A; Roces, F

    2007-05-01

    We explored the ability of leaf-cutting ants (Atta vollenweideri) to learn the location of a food reward by using thermal information as an orientation cue. During training of single workers, the conditioned stimulus was a distant thermal source placed frontally, 15 mm away from a platform having a leaf fragment as reward. After training, single workers were confronted with the choice between two sides, one being coupled, in a pseudo-randomized design, with a thermal stimulus heated 5 degrees C above environmental temperature. After 10 learning trials, workers significantly chose the side with the thermal stimulus. This showed that workers can use thermal information for spatial orientation in the context of foraging, which may help them to locate, for instance, highly attractive sun-exposed leaves. Thermal radiation alone as orientation cue was sufficient to allow learning, since preclusion of thermal convection during training and test did not impair workers' response. Shielding of both thorax and gaster from the thermal source did not weaken learning, suggesting the sole participation of head and antennae in temperature reception. A thermal stimulus heated 1 degrees C above environmental temperature could not be used as a learned orientation cue, even when foragers were allowed to directly contact the thermal source.

  9. Wind-induced ventilation of the giant nests of the leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri.

    PubMed

    Kleineidam, C; Ernst, R; Roces, F

    2001-07-01

    To understand the significance of elaborate nest architecture for the control of nest climate, we investigated the mechanisms governing nest ventilation in a large field nest of Atta vollenweideri. Surface wind, drawing air from the central tunnels of the nest mound, was observed to be the main driving force for nest ventilation during summer. This mechanism of wind-induced ventilation has so far not been described for social insect colonies. Thermal convection, another possible force driving ventilation, contributed very little. According to their predominant airflow direction, two functionally distinct tunnel groups were identified: outflow tunnels in the upper, central region, and inflow tunnels in the lower, peripheral region of the nest mound. The function of the tunnels was independent of wind direction. Outflow of air through the central tunnels was followed by a delayed inflow through the peripheral tunnels. Leaf-cutting ants design the tunnel openings on the top of the nest with turrets which may reinforce wind-induced nest ventilation.

  10. Invertebrate enemies and nest associates of the leaf-cutting ant Atta texana (Buckley) (Formicudae, Attini)

    Treesearch

    D.A. Waller; John C. Moser

    1990-01-01

    The complex nests of leaf-cutting ants (Formicidae; Attini) provide rich habitats for ant associates. These mounds consist of interconnected subterranean cavities that average 0.002 m3 in volume (Waler et al. 1938) and extend to depths of 7 m (Moser 1963). Many cavities contain fungus gardens, cultivated on live plant material, frass and debris....

  11. Synthetic analogs of the trail pheromone of the leaf-cutting ant, Atta texana (Buckley)

    Treesearch

    Philip E. Sonnet; John C. Moser

    1972-01-01

    The preparation and bioassay of a number of analogs of the trail-following pheromone of the town ant, Atta texana (Buckley), are described. Although several compounds were quite active, isomers of the pheromone were not. The results are discussed wit ha vew to the probable conformations of these molecules.

  12. 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

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

    PubMed

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

    2015-12-01

    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.

  14. A new genus and species of Macrochelidae (Acari:Mesostigmata) associated with the Texas leaf cutting ant, Atta texana (Buckley) in Louisiana, USA

    Treesearch

    Gerald W. Krantz; John Moser

    2012-01-01

    Adults and nymphs of a new genus and species of the family Macrochelidae are described from detritus cavities of the leaf-cutting ant, Atta texana. This new species is notable in having peritremes with no posterior loop, a series of small subterminal teeth on the fixed cheliceral digit rather than the single large tooth typical of other macrochelids...

  15. Seasonal Activity and Foraging Preferences of the Leaf-Cutting Ant Atta sexdens piriventris (Santschi) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Giesel, A; Boff, M I C; Boff, P

    2013-12-01

    Leaf-cutting ants are known for their habit of foraging. These habits can be influenced by several factors, including variations in topography, soil, and climate among others. The objective of this research was to study the seasonal activity and foraging preferences of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens piriventris (Santschi). The study was carried out from January to October of 2007 in grasslands of the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Nests of A. sexdens piriventris were randomly selected and the forager's activities were recorded. Damaged plant species, soil fertility, and climatic conditions were recorded. The maximum foraging activity in the summer was recorded during periods of darkness or low light (between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.). In autumn and spring, foraging was the highest in the morning, but during winter time the foraging activity was high in the afternoon. Fourteen plant species were frequently visited during our study with the lowest foraging activity being recorded at very low (1 to 4°C) or very high temperatures (above 26°C). The number of exploited plant species was higher in winter (13) than in summer (9). Baccharis trimera (Asteraceae) (43%) and Paspalum spp. (Poaceae) (33%) were the most exploited plants among the identified species.

  16. In vitro evaluation of trichoderma and gliocladium antagonism against the symbiotic fungus of the leaf-cutting ant Atta cephalotes.

    PubMed

    Ortiz, A; Orduz, S

    2001-01-01

    The antagonistic activity of Trichoderma and Gliocladium isolates against Attamyces sp., a symbiotic fungus of the leaf-cutting ant Atta cephalotes, was investigated. A. cephalotes cultures this fungus as the primary food source. Most of the Trichodema and Gliocladium isolates tested in vitro (82.6%) inhibited the Attamyces sp. mycelial growth. which was probably due to their colonization ability and competition for nutrients, both of them known mechanisms of some species of these genera. T. lignorum strain T-26 was the strongest inhibitor achieving a colonization of 23%. Microscopical observations indicate that the inhibitory effect was caused by an interaction that took place in close contact with the host hypha, causing wall deformation that led to the collapse of the turgor pressure.

  17. Individual and collective problem-solving in a foraging context in the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica.

    PubMed

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

    2009-01-01

    In this paper we investigate the flexibility of foraging behavior in the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica, both at the individual and collective levels, following a change in the physical properties of their environment. We studied in laboratory conditions the changes occurring in foraging behavior when a height constraint was placed 1 cm above part of the trail linking the nest to the foraging area. We found that the size and shape of the fragments of foraging material brought back to the nest were significantly modified when the constraint was placed on the trail: independent of their size, forager ants cut smaller and rounder fragments in the presence of a height constraint than in its absence. This size adjustment does not require any direct sensory feedback because it occurred when the ants cut fragments in the foraging area; no further cutting was done when they encountered the constraint. This points to the existence of a template that ants store and use as a reference to adjust their reach while cutting. Remarkably, despite the decrease in the foraging material brought to the nest per capita the colony was still able to improve its foraging performance by doubling the number of transporters. This study illustrates the flexibility of foraging behavior exhibited by an ant colony. It provides a rare example of insects finding an intelligent solution to a problem occurring in a foraging context, at both the individual and collective levels.

  18. Intramandibular glands in different castes of leaf-cutting ant, Atta laevigata (Fr. Smith, 1858) (Formicidae: Attini).

    PubMed

    Martins, Luiza Carla Barbosa; Della Lucia, Terezinha Maria Castro; Gonçalves, Wagner Gonzaga; Delabie, Jacques Hubert Charles; Zanuncio, José Cola; Serrão, José Eduardo

    2015-07-01

    Intramandibular glands have been poorly studied in polymorphic ants, where the differences between castes were unsufficiently scrutinized. Leaf-cutting ants possess one of the most complex systems of communication and labor division, which is polymorphic well as age polyethism, and makes them an ideal model for the study of intramandibular glands. This study has investigated the occurrence of intramandibular glands in female castes and subcastes of Atta laevigata. The mandibles of the queen, medium, and minor workers, and soldiers were submitted to histological, histochemical, ultrastructural, and morphometric analyses. The class-3 gland cells and the epidermal gland with a reservoir were found in all the castes. The queens and soldiers showed a higher number of class-3 gland cells, distributed within the mandible as well as a greater gland size in comparison to the workers. The histochemical tests, periodic acid-Schiff (PAS), mercury-bromophenol, and Nile blue, were similar for the class-3 gland cells and epidermal glands with a reservoir. However, the tests evidenced differences between the castes, with carbohydrates strongly positive in all of them, whereas neutral lipids were found in the queen and soldiers. The protein was weakly positive in the queen, whereas in the soldier, medium, and minor workers these reactions were strongly positive in the intramandibular glands. Our findings in A. laevigata suggest that intramandibular glands are directly involved in labor division and consequently in chemical communication between the castes. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

  19. Activity of Ricinus communis (Euphorbiaceae) and ricinine against the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and the symbiotic fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus.

    PubMed

    Bigi, Maria Fátima; Torkomian, Vera L V; de Groote, Suzanne T C S; Hebling, Maria José A; Bueno, Odair C; Pagnocca, Fernando C; Fernandes, João B; Vieira, Paulo C; da Silva, Maria Fátima G F

    2004-09-01

    The focus of this study was the identification of compounds from plant extracts for use in crop protection. This paper reports on the toxic activity of fractions of leaf extracts of Ricinus communis L (Euphorbiaceae) and isolated active compounds in the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel and its symbiotic fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus (Singer) Möller. The main compounds responsible for activity against the fungus and ant in leaf extracts of R communis were found to be fatty acids for the former and ricinine for the ants.

  20. Do leaf cutting ants cut undetected? Testing the effect of ant-induced plant defences on foraging decisions in Atta colombica.

    PubMed

    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.

  1. 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

  2. Influence of caffeine on the survival of leaf-cutting ants Atta sexdens rubropilosa and in vitro growth of their mutualistic fungus.

    PubMed

    Miyashira, Carlos H; Tanigushi, Daniel G; Gugliotta, Adriana M; Santos, Déborah Y A C

    2012-06-01

    Leaf-cutting ants collect plant fresh material for the cultivation of their mutualistic fungus. Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) cause great economic losses through their foraging activity, mainly in agriculture. The main control method is the application of granulated toxic baits incorporated with an active ingredient (AI). The present goal is to evaluate the effect of caffeine on in vitro growth of the mutualistic fungus and on the survival of the leaf-cutting ants, aiming to verify the potential toxicity of this secondary metabolite over these organisms. Three distinct patterns of fungal growth correlated with caffeine concentration were observed: (1) no effect (0.01% caffeine); (2) intermediate growth reduction (0.05% caffeine); (3) drastic growth reduction (0.10 and 0.50% caffeine). The highest caffeine concentration causes fungus death in the first week. As for insect survival, caffeine does not seem to exert any effect. The treatments with diet containing caffeine showed similar values of M50, irrespective of caffeine concentration. As caffeine was shown to reduce growth of the mutualistic fungus of Atta sexdens rubropilosa, but with no conclusive effect on insect survival, a hypothetical explanation for the selection of different Coffea species by this leaf-cutting ant species might be associated with caffeine toxicity to the fungus. Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. Cryptococcus haglerorum, sp. nov., an anamorphic basidiomycetous yeast isolated from nests of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens.

    PubMed

    Middelhoven, Wouter J; Fonseca, Alvaro; Carreiro, Solange Cristina; Pagnocca, Fernando Carlos; Bueno, Odair Correa

    2003-01-01

    A yeast strain (CBS 8902) was isolated from the nest of a leaf-cutting ant and was shown to be related to Cryptococcus humicola. Sequencing of the D1/D2 region of the 26S ribosomal DNA and physiological characterization revealed a separate taxonomic position. A novel species named Cryptococcus haglerorum is proposed to accommodate strain CBS 8902 that assimilates n-hexadecane and several benzene compounds. Physiological characteristics distinguishing the novel species from some other members of the C. humicola complex are presented. The phylogenetic relationship of these strains to species of the genus Trichosporon Behrend is discussed.

  6. 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. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

  7. Production of polysaccharidases in different carbon sources by Leucoagaricus gongylophorus Möller (Singer), the symbiotic fungus of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens Linnaeus.

    PubMed

    Silva, Aline; Bacci, Maurício; Pagnocca, Fernando C; Bueno, Odair C; Hebling, Maria J A

    2006-07-01

    Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, the fungus cultured by the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens, produces polysaccharidases that degrade leaf components by generating nutrients believed to be essential for ant nutrition. We evaluated pectinase, amylase, xylanase, and cellulase production by L. gongylophorus in laboratory cultures and found that polysaccharidases are produced during fungal growth on pectin, starch, cellulose, xylan, or glucose but not cellulase, whose production is inhibited during fungal growth on xylan. Pectin was the carbon source that best stimulated the production of enzymes, which showed that pectinase had the highest production activity of all of the carbon sources tested, indicating that the presence of pectin and the production of pectinase are key features for symbiotic nutrition on plant material. During growth on starch and cellulose, polysaccharidase production level was intermediate, although during growth on xylan and glucose, enzyme production was very low. We propose a possible profile of polysaccharide degradation inside the nest, where the fungus is cultured on the foliar substrate.

  8. 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.

  9. Growth and enzymatic activity of Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, a mutualistic fungus isolated from the leaf-cutting ant Atta mexicana, on cellulose and lignocellulosic biomass.

    PubMed

    Vigueras, G; Paredes-Hernández, D; Revah, S; Valenzuela, J; Olivares-Hernández, R; Le Borgne, S

    2017-08-01

    A mutualistic fungus of the leaf-cutting ant Atta mexicana was isolated and identified as Leucoagaricus gongylophorus. This isolate had a close phylogenetic relationship with L. gongylophorus fungi cultivated by other leaf-cutting ants as determined by ITS sequencing. A subcolony started with ~500 A. mexicana workers could process 2 g day(-1) of plant material and generate a 135 cm(3) fungus garden in 160 days. The presence of gongylidia structures of ~35 μm was observed on the tip of the hyphae. The fungus could grow without ants on semi-solid cultures with α-cellulose and microcrystalline cellulose and in solid-state cultures with grass and sugarcane bagasse, as sole sources of carbon. The maximum CO2 production rate on grass (Vmax  = 17·5 mg CO2  Lg(-1)  day(-1) ) was three times higher than on sugarcane bagasse (Vmax  = 6·6 mg CO2  Lg(-1) day(-1) ). Recoveries of 32·9 mgglucose  gbiomass(-1) and 12·3 mgglucose  gbiomass(-1) were obtained from the fungal biomass and the fungus garden, respectively. Endoglucanase activity was detected on carboxymethylcellulose agar plates. This is the first study reporting the growth of L. gongylophorus from A. mexicana on cellulose and plant material. According to the best of our knowledge, this is the first report about the growth of Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, isolated from the colony of the ant Atta mexicana, on semisolid medium with cellulose and solid-state cultures with lignocellulosic materials. The maximum CO2 production rate on grass was three times higher than on sugarcane bagasse. Endoglucanase activity was detected and it was possible to recover glucose from the fungal gongylidia. The cellulolytic activity could be used to process lignocellulosic residues and obtain sugar or valuable products, but more work is needed in this direction. © 2017 The Society for Applied Microbiology.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. Priority rules govern the organization of traffic on foraging trails under crowding conditions in the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica.

    PubMed

    Dussutour, A; Beshers, S; Deneubourg, J L; Fourcassié, V

    2009-02-01

    Foraging in leaf-cutting ants is generally organized along well-defined recruitment trails supporting a bi-directional flow of outbound and nestbound individuals. This study attempts to reveal the priority rules governing the organization of traffic on these trails. Ants were forced to move on a narrow trail, allowing the passage of only two individuals at a time. In this condition, a desynchronization of inbound and outbound traffic was observed, involving the formation of alternating clusters of inbound and outbound ants. Most clusters of inbound ants were headed by laden ants followed by unladen ants. This occurred because inbound unladen ants did not attempt to overtake the laden ants in front of them. As unladen ants move on average faster than laden ants, these ants were thus forced to decrease their speed. By contrast, this decrease was counterbalanced by the fact that, by staying in a cluster instead of moving in isolation, inbound unladen ants limit the number of head-on encounters with outbound ants. Our analysis shows that the delay induced by these head-on encounters would actually be twice as high as the delay induced by the forced decrease in speed incurred by ants staying in a cluster. The cluster organization also promotes information transfer about the level of food availability by increasing the number of contacts between outbound and inbound laden ants, which could possibly stimulate these former to cut and retrieve leaf fragments when reaching the end of the trail.

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

    PubMed

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

    2011-02-23

    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 (E(high)) or low (E(low)) densities of endophytes. The E(high) seedlings contained 5.5 times higher endophyte content and a greater diversity of fungal morphospecies than the E(low) treatment, and endophyte content was not correlated with leaf toughness or thickness. Leaf-cutting ants cut over 2.5 times the leaf area from E(low) relative to E(high) seedlings and had a tendency to recruit more ants to E(low) 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.

  17. Leaf-cutting ant faecal fluid and mandibular gland secretion: effects on microfungi spore germination

    PubMed Central

    Rodrigues, André; Carletti, Carla D.; Bueno, Odair C.; Pagnocca, Fernando C.

    2008-01-01

    The mandibular gland secretion (MGS) and the faecal fluid (FF) of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel affected the spore germination of selected microfungi isolated from nests of this insect. MGS was more effective than the FF, completely inhibiting the spore germination of four out of six microfungi species. PMID:24031181

  18. Laboratory investigations of the trail-following responses of four species of leaf-cutting ants with notes on the specificity of a trail pheromone of Atta texana (Buckley)

    Treesearch

    S. W. Robinson; John C. Moser; M. S. Blum; E. Amante

    1974-01-01

    Interspecific trail following activity of poison sac contents from four species of leaf-cutting ants was investigated. with only one exception, all the species teste followed trails made from each others poison sac contents. however when the ants were given a choice of following one of two separate trails, clear differences were shown in the poison sac contents of the...

  19. Fungal communities in the garden chamber soils of leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Rodrigues, Andre; Passarini, Michel R Z; Ferro, Milene; Nagamoto, Nilson S; Forti, Luiz C; Bacci, Maurício; Sette, Lara D; Pagnocca, Fernando C

    2014-11-01

    Leaf-cutting ants modify the properties of the soil adjacent to their nests. Here, we examined whether such an ant-altered environment impacts the belowground fungal communities. Fungal diversity and community structure of soil from the fungus garden chambers of Atta sexdens rubropilosa and Atta bisphaerica, two widespread leaf-cutting ants in Brazil, were determined and compared with non-nest soils. Culture-dependent methods revealed similar species richness but different community compositions between both types of soils. Penicillium janthinellum and Trichoderma spirale were the prevalent isolates in fungus chamber soils and non-nest soils, respectively. In contrast to cultivation methods, analyses of clone libraries based on the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region indicated that richness of operational taxonomic units significantly differed between soils of the fungus chamber and non-nest soils. FastUnifrac analyses based on ITS sequences further revealed a clear distinction in the community structure between both types of soils. Plectania milleri and an uncultured Clavariaceae fungus were prevalent in fungus chamber soils and non-nest soils, respectively. FastUnifrac analyses also revealed that fungal community structures of soil from the garden chambers markedly differed among ant species. Our findings suggest that leaf-cutting ants affect fungal communities in the soil from the fungus chamber in comparison to non-nest soils.

  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. Yeasts and filamentous fungi carried by the gynes of leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Pagnocca, Fernando C; Rodrigues, André; Nagamoto, Nilson S; Bacci, Maurício

    2008-11-01

    Insect-associated microbes exhibit a wide range of interactions with their hosts. One example of such interactions is the insect-driven dispersal of microorganisms, which plays an essential role in the ecology of several microbes. To study dispersal of microorganisms by leaf-cutting ants (Formicidae: Attini), we applied culture-dependent methods to identify the filamentous fungi and yeasts found in two different body parts of leaf-cutting ant gynes: the exoskeleton and the infrabuccal pocket. The gynes use the latter structure to store a pellet of the ants' symbiotic fungus during nest founding. Many filamentous fungi (n = 142) and yeasts (n = 19) were isolated from the gynes' exoskeleton. In contrast, only seven filamentous fungi and three yeasts isolates were recovered from the infrabuccal pellets, suggesting an efficient mechanism utilized by the gynes to prevent contamination of the symbiotic fungus inoculum. The genus Cladosporium prevailed (78%) among filamentous fungi whereas Aureobasidium, Candida and Cryptococcus prevailed among yeasts associated with gynes. Interestingly, Escovopsis, a specialized fungal pathogen of the leaf-cutting ant-fungus symbiosis, was not isolated from the body parts or from infrabuccal pellets of any gynes sampled. Our results suggest that gynes of the leaf-cutter ants Atta laevigata and A. capiguara do not vertically transmit any particular species of yeasts or filamentous fungi during the foundation of a new nest. Instead, fungi found in association with gynes have a cosmopolitan distribution, suggesting they are probably acquired from the environment and passively dispersed during nest foundation. The possible role of these fungi for the attine ant-microbial symbiosis is discussed.

  2. 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.

  3. Edge-induced narrowing of dietary diversity in leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Falcão, P F; Pinto, S R R; Wirth, R; Leal, I R

    2011-06-01

    Much of the ecological alteration faced by human-modified Neotropical forests can be assigned to edge effects, including the proliferation of some voracious herbivores such as leaf-cutting ants. However, the underlying mechanisms/impacts of tropical forest edge on herbivores performance and their foraging behaviour (e.g. dietary diversity) have rarely been investigated. The goal of this study was, therefore, to determine whether and how the annual diet (i.e. species richness, diversity and the relative proportion of pioneer versus non-pioneer species of plant materials) of Atta cephalotes colonies differs in the forest edge versus the interior zone of a large remnant of Atlantic forest in northeastern Brazil. Among the key results was a strong habitat effect on dietary diversity (explaining ca. 40-50% of the variation), which, in edge colonies, decreased approximately by one fourth compared to interior colonies (inverse of Simpson's index: 3.7±0.84 versus 4.99±0.95). There was a predominance of leaf fragments collected from pioneer species in the diet in both habitat (86% in edge and 80.4% in interior). Edge colonies collected proportionally more fragments from pioneer species than colonies located in the forest interior. Our results are the first to demonstrate an edge-mediated relaxation of dietary restrictions in leaf-cutting ants. These findings render robust support to previous evidence indicating the reduction of bottom-up forces as a key factor explaining both edge-induced hyper-abundance and increased herbivory of leaf-cutting ants in human-modified Neotropical landscapes.

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

    PubMed

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

    2012-02-17

    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.

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

    PubMed

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

    2015-12-21

    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.

  6. 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

  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. © 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.

  10. Chemical disguise of myrmecophilous cockroaches and its implications for understanding nestmate recognition mechanisms in leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Nehring, Volker; Dani, Francesca R; Calamai, Luca; Turillazzi, Stefano; Bohn, Horst; Klass, Klaus-Dieter; d'Ettorre, Patrizia

    2016-08-05

    Cockroaches of the genus Attaphila regularly occur in leaf-cutting ant colonies. The ants farm a fungus that the cockroaches also appear to feed on. Cockroaches disperse between colonies horizontally (via foraging trails) and vertically (attached to queens on their mating flights). We analysed the chemical strategies used by the cockroaches to integrate into colonies of Atta colombica and Acromyrmex octospinosus. Analysing cockroaches from nests of two host species further allowed us to test the hypothesis that nestmate recognition is based on an asymmetric mechanism. Specifically, we test the U-present nestmate recognition model, which assumes that detection of undesirable cues (non-nestmate specific substances) leads to strong rejection of the cue-bearers, while absence of desirable cues (nestmate-specific substances) does not necessarily trigger aggression. We found that nests of Atta and Acromyrmex contained cockroaches of two different and not yet described Attaphila species. The cockroaches share the cuticular chemical substances of their specific host species and copy their host nest's colony-specific cuticular profile. Indeed, the cockroaches are accepted by nestmate but attacked by non-nestmate ant workers. Cockroaches from Acromyrmex colonies bear a lower concentration of cuticular substances and are less likely to be attacked by non-nestmate ants than cockroaches from Atta colonies. Nest-specific recognition of Attaphila cockroaches by host workers in combination with nest-specific cuticular chemical profiles suggest that the cockroaches mimic their host's recognition labels, either by synthesizing nest-specific substances or by substance transfer from ants. Our finding that the cockroach species with lower concentration of cuticular substances receives less aggression by both host species fully supports the U-present nestmate recognition model. Leaf-cutting ant nestmate recognition is thus asymmetric, responding more strongly to differences than to

  11. Starch metabolism in Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, the symbiotic fungus of leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Silva, A; Bacci, M; Pagnocca, F C; Bueno, O C; Hebling, M J A

    2006-01-01

    Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, the symbiotic fungus of the leaf-cutting ants, degrades starch, this degradation being supposed to occur in the plant material which leafcutters forage to the nests, generating most of the glucose which the ants utilize for food. In the present investigation, we show that laboratory cultures of L. gongylophorus produce extracellular alpha-amylase and maltase which degrade starch to glucose, reinforcing that the ants can obtain glucose from starch through the symbiotic fungus. Glucose was found to repress alpha-amylase and, more severely, maltase activity, thus repressing starch degradation by L. gongylophorus, so that we hypothesize that: (1) glucose down-regulation of starch degradation also occurs in the Atta sexdens fungus garden; (2) glucose consumption from the fungus garden by A. sexdens stimulates degradation of starch from plant material by L. gongylophorus, which may represent a mechanism by which leafcutters can control enzyme production by the symbiotic fungus. Since glucose is found in the fungus garden inside the nests, down-regulation of starch degradation by glucose is supposed to occur in the nest and play a part in the control of fungal enzyme production by leafcutters.

  12. Genetic royal cheats in leaf-cutting ant societies

    PubMed Central

    Hughes, William O. H.; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2008-01-01

    Social groups are vulnerable to cheating because the reproductive interests of group members are rarely identical. All cooperative systems are therefore predicted to involve a mix of cooperative and cheating genotypes, with the frequency of the latter being constrained by the suppressive abilities of the former. The most significant potential conflict in social insect colonies is over which individuals become reproductive queens rather than sterile workers. This reproductive division of labor is a defining characteristic of eusocial societies, but individual larvae will maximize their fitness by becoming queens whereas their nestmates will generally maximize fitness by forcing larvae to become workers. However, evolutionary constraints are thought to prevent cheating by removing genetic variation in caste propensity. Here, we show that one-fifth of leaf-cutting ant patrilines cheat their nestmates by biasing their larval development toward becoming queens rather than workers. Two distinct mechanisms appear to be involved, one most probably involving a general tendency to become a larger adult and the other relating specifically to the queen–worker developmental switch. Just as evolutionary theory predicts, these “royal” genotypes are rare both in the population and within individual colonies. The rarity of royal cheats is best explained as an evolutionary strategy to avoid suppression by cooperative genotypes, the efficiency of which is frequency-dependent. The results demonstrate that cheating can be widespread in even the most cooperative of societies and illustrate that identical principles govern social evolution in highly diverse systems. PMID:18339809

  13. Genetic royal cheats in leaf-cutting ant societies.

    PubMed

    Hughes, William O H; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2008-04-01

    Social groups are vulnerable to cheating because the reproductive interests of group members are rarely identical. All cooperative systems are therefore predicted to involve a mix of cooperative and cheating genotypes, with the frequency of the latter being constrained by the suppressive abilities of the former. The most significant potential conflict in social insect colonies is over which individuals become reproductive queens rather than sterile workers. This reproductive division of labor is a defining characteristic of eusocial societies, but individual larvae will maximize their fitness by becoming queens whereas their nestmates will generally maximize fitness by forcing larvae to become workers. However, evolutionary constraints are thought to prevent cheating by removing genetic variation in caste propensity. Here, we show that one-fifth of leaf-cutting ant patrilines cheat their nestmates by biasing their larval development toward becoming queens rather than workers. Two distinct mechanisms appear to be involved, one most probably involving a general tendency to become a larger adult and the other relating specifically to the queen-worker developmental switch. Just as evolutionary theory predicts, these "royal" genotypes are rare both in the population and within individual colonies. The rarity of royal cheats is best explained as an evolutionary strategy to avoid suppression by cooperative genotypes, the efficiency of which is frequency-dependent. The results demonstrate that cheating can be widespread in even the most cooperative of societies and illustrate that identical principles govern social evolution in highly diverse systems.

  14. 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.

  15. Representation of Thermal Information in the Antennal Lobe of Leaf-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Ruchty, Markus; Helmchen, Fritjof; Wehner, Rüdiger; Kleineidam, Christoph Johannes

    2010-01-01

    Insects are equipped with various types of antennal sensilla, which house thermosensitive neurons adapted to receive different parameters of the thermal environment for a variety of temperature-guided behaviors. In the leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri, the physiology and the morphology of the thermosensitive sensillum coeloconicum (Sc) has been thoroughly investigated. However, the central projections of its receptor neurons are unknown. Here we selectively stained the three neurons found in single Sc and tracked their axons into the brain of Atta vollenweideri workers. Each of the three axons terminates in a single glomerulus of the antennal lobe (Sc-glomeruli). Two of the innervated glomeruli are adjacent to each other and are located laterally, while the third one is clearly separated and located medially in the antennal lobe. Using two-photon Ca2+ imaging of antennal lobe projection neurons, we studied where in the antennal lobe thermal information is represented. In the 11 investigated antennal lobes, we found up to 10 different glomeruli in a single specimen responding to temperature stimulation. Both, warm- and cold-sensitive glomeruli could be identified. The thermosensitive glomeruli were mainly located in the medial part of the antennal lobe. Based on the general representation of thermal information in the antennal lobe and functional data on the Sc-glomeruli we conclude that temperature stimuli received by Sc are processed in the medial of the three target glomeruli. The present study reveals an important role of the antennal lobe in temperature processing and links a specific thermosensitive neuron to its central target glomerulus. PMID:21120133

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. Essential Oils of Hyptis pectinata Chemotypes: Isolation, Binary Mixtures and Acute Toxicity on Leaf-Cutting Ants.

    PubMed

    Feitosa-Alcantara, Rosana B; Bacci, Leandro; Blank, Arie F; Alves, Péricles B; Silva, Indira Morgana de A; Soares, Caroline A; Sampaio, Taís S; Nogueira, Paulo Cesar de L; Arrigoni-Blank, Maria de Fátima

    2017-04-12

    Leaf-cutting ants are pests of great economic importance due to the damage they cause to agricultural and forest crops. The use of organosynthetic insecticides is the main form of control of these insects. In order to develop safer technology, the objective of this work was to evaluate the formicidal activity of the essential oils of two Hyptis pectinata genotypes (chemotypes) and their major compounds on the leaf-cutting ants Acromyrmex balzani Emery and Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel. Bioassays of exposure pathways (contact and fumigation) and binary mixtures of the major compounds were performed. The major compounds identified in the essential oils of H. pectinata were β-caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide and calamusenone. The essential oils of H. pectinata were toxic to the ants in both exposure pathways. Essential oils were more toxic than their major compounds alone. The chemotype calamusenone was more toxic to A. balzani in both exposure pathways. A. sexdens rubropilosa was more susceptible to the essential oil of the chemotype β-caryophyllene in both exposure pathways. In general, the binary mixtures of the major compounds resulted in additive effect of toxicity. The essential oils of H. pectinata is a raw material of great potential for the development of new insecticides.

  19. Foraging of Psilocybe basidiocarps by the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex lobicornis in Santa Fé, Argentina.

    PubMed

    Masiulionis, Virginia E; Weber, Roland Ws; Pagnocca, Fernando C

    2013-12-01

    It is generally accepted that material collected by leaf-cutting ants of the genus Acromyrmex consists solely of plant matter, which is used in the nest as substrate for a symbiotic fungus providing nutrition to the ants. There is only one previous report of any leaf-cutting ant foraging directly on fungal basidiocarps. Basidiocarps of Psilocybe coprophila growing on cow dung were actively collected by workers of Acromyrmex lobicornis in Santa Fé province, Argentina. During this behaviour the ants displayed typical signals of recognition and continuously recruited other foragers to the task. Basidiocarps of different stages of maturity were being transported into the nest by particular groups of workers, while other workers collected plant material. The collection of mature basidiocarps with viable spores by leaf-cutting ants in nature adds substance to theories relating to the origin of fungiculture in these highly specialized social insects.

  20. Forager size and ecology of Acromyrmex coronatus and other leaf-cutting ants in Costa Rica.

    PubMed

    Wetterer, James K

    1995-12-01

    I compare forager size and foraging ecology of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex coronatus (Fabricius) with published data on three other leaf-cutter species in Costa Rica, Atta cephalotes (L.), Acromyrmex octospinosus (Reich), and Acromyrmex volcanus Wheeler. Intra-and interspecific differences in forager size in these leaf-cutting ants appear to reflect the economics of harvesting different preferred resources. Ac. coronatus colonies have relatively small foragers (mean mass=3.4±1.4 mg) that cut almost exclusively the thin, soft leaves and other parts of small herbaceous plants. Similarly, small A. cephalotes colonies have small foragers (3.3±1.0 mg) that attack the leaves of small herbaceous plants. In contrast, mature A. cephalotes colonies have a wider sizerange of foragers (7.3±4.1 mg) that primarily attack the leaves of trees, with larger foragers cutting thicker, tougher leaves. In A. cephalotes, the match of forager size to leaf type (both ontogenetically and behaviorally) increases foraging efficiency. Extreme forager polymorphism in mature A. cephalotes colonies appears to broaden the diversity of tree species that they can exploit efficiently. Ac. octospinosus and Ac. volcanus both have large, relatively monomorphic foragers (13.3±4.2 mg and 30.6±4.3 mg, respectively) that typically scavenge for pieces of fallen vegetation, such as dead leaves, fruit, and flowers, in addition to cutting herbs. The large foragers of Ac. octospinosus and Ac. volcanus appear to be well suited as generalist foragers, able to cut or collect any desirable vegetation encountered. Ac. coronatus is similar to A. cephalotes in other ways. Both Ac. coronatus and A. cephalotes establish and maintain cleared trunk trails for foraging, and both have minima workers that "hitchhike" on the loads carried by foragers, apparently serving to protect the larger foragers from attack by phorid flies. Trunk trails and hitchhikers are not known for Ac. octospinosus and Ac. volcanus. That A

  1. Recognition of endophytic Trichoderma species by leaf-cutting ants and their potential in a Trojan-horse management strategy.

    PubMed

    Rocha, Silma L; Evans, Harry C; Jorge, Vanessa L; Cardoso, Lucimar A O; Pereira, Fernanda S T; Rocha, Fabiano B; Barreto, Robert W; Hart, Adam G; Elliot, Simon L

    2017-04-01

    Interactions between leaf-cutting ants, their fungal symbiont (Leucoagaricus) and the endophytic fungi within the vegetation they carry into their colonies are still poorly understood. If endophytes antagonistic to Leucoagaricus were found in plant material being carried by these ants, then this might indicate a potential mechanism for plants to defend themselves from leaf-cutter attack. In addition, it could offer possibilities for the management of these important Neotropical pests. Here, we show that, for Atta sexdens rubropilosa, there was a significantly greater incidence of Trichoderma species in the vegetation removed from the nests-and deposited around the entrances-than in that being transported into the nests. In a no-choice test, Trichoderma-infested rice was taken into the nest, with deleterious effects on both the fungal gardens and ant survival. The endophytic ability of selected strains of Trichoderma was also confirmed, following their inoculation and subsequent reisolation from seedlings of eucalyptus. These results indicate that endophytic fungi which pose a threat to ant fungal gardens through their antagonistic traits, such as Trichoderma, have the potential to act as bodyguards of their plant hosts and thus might be employed in a Trojan-horse strategy to mitigate the negative impact of leaf-cutting ants in both agriculture and silviculture in the Neotropics. We posit that the ants would detect and evict such 'malign' endophytes-artificially inoculated into vulnerable crops-during the quality-control process within the nest, and, moreover, that the foraging ants may then be deterred from further harvesting of 'Trichoderma-enriched' plants.

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

    PubMed

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

    2013-01-08

    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.

  3. 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

  4. The dynamics of plant cell-wall polysaccharide decomposition in leaf-cutting ant fungus gardens.

    PubMed

    Moller, Isabel E; De Fine Licht, Henrik H; Harholt, Jesper; Willats, William G T; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2011-03-10

    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.

  5. 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

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

    PubMed

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

    2012-10-22

    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.

  7. Inquiline roach responds to trail-marking substance of leaf-cutting ants

    Treesearch

    John C. Moser

    1964-01-01

    Nymphs and females of the roach inquiline, Attaphila fungicola W. M. Wheeler, respond to odor-trail substances of Atta texana (Buckley) and Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (McCook).The ants are more sensitive than roaches to the pheromone.

  8. 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

  9. 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

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

    PubMed

    Schiøtt, Morten; Rogowska-Wrzesinska, Adelina; Roepstorff, Peter; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2010-12-31

    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. 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. 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 phytopathogens.

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. Antennal olfactory responsiveness of the Texas leaf cutting ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) to trail pheromone and its two alarm substances

    Treesearch

    N.A. Andryszak; Thomas L. Payne; J.C. Dickens; John C. Moser; R.W. Fisher

    1990-01-01

    Electroantennograms (EAGs) were recorded from major workers, queens, and males of the Texas leaf cutting, Atta texana (Buckley) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in response to serial dilutions of two alarm substances, 2-heptanone and 4-methyl-3-heptanone, and its trial phermone, 4-methylpyrrole-2-carbonxylate. The lower EAG threshold for major workers...

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. Foraging leaf-cutting ants learn to reject Vitis vinifera ssp. vinifera plants that emit herbivore-induced volatiles.

    PubMed

    Thiele, Theresa; Kost, Christian; Roces, Flavio; Wirth, Rainer

    2014-06-01

    Leaf-cutting ants (LCAs) are dominant herbivores of the Neotropics, as well as economically important pests. Their foraging ecology and patterns/mechanisms of food selection have received considerable attention. Recently, it has been documented that LCAs exhibit a delayed rejection of previously accepted food plants following treatment with a fungicide that makes the plants unsuitable as substrate for their symbiotic fungus. Here, we investigated whether LCAs similarly reject plants with induced chemical defenses, by combining analysis of volatile emissions with dual-choice bioassays that used LCA subcolonies (Atta sexdens L.). On seven consecutive days, foraging ants were given the choice between leaf disks from untreated control plants and test plants of Vitis vinifera ssp. vinifera L. treated with the phytohormone jasmonic acid (JA) to mimic herbivore attack. Chemical analysis revealed the emission of a characteristic set of herbivore-induced volatile organic compounds (VOC) from JA-induced plants. Dual-choice experiments indicated that workers did not show any preference initially, but that they avoided JA-treated plants from day five onwards. Our finding that A. sexdens foragers learn to avoid VOC-emitting plants, which are likely detrimental to their symbiotic fungus, represents the first evidence for avoidance learning in attine ants toward plants with induced defenses.

  17. Chemical warfare: Leaf-cutting ants defend themselves and their gardens against parasite attack by deploying antibiotic secreting bacteria.

    PubMed

    Samuels, Richard Ian; Mattoso, Thalles Cardoso; Moreira, Denise D O

    2013-03-01

    Leaf-cutting ants are well known for their highly complex social organization, which provides them with a strong defense against parasites invading their colonies. Besides this attribute, these insects have morphological, physiological and structural characteristics further reinforcing the defense of their colonies. With the discovery of symbiotic bacteria present on the integument of leaf-cutting ants, a new line of defense was proposed and considered to be specific for the control of a specialized fungal parasite of the ants' fungus gardens (Escovopsis). However, recent studies have questioned the specificity of the integumental bacteria, as they were also found to inhibit a range of fungi, including entomopathogens. The microbiota associated with the leaf-cutting ant gardens has also been proposed as another level of chemical defense, protecting the garden from parasite invasion. Here we review the chemical defense weaponry deployed by leaf-cutting ants against parasites of their fungus gardens and of the ants themselves.

  18. Interaction specificity between leaf-cutting ants and vertically transmitted Pseudonocardia bacteria.

    PubMed

    Andersen, Sandra B; Yek, Sze Huei; Nash, David R; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2015-02-25

    The obligate mutualism between fungus-growing ants and microbial symbionts offers excellent opportunities to study the specificity and stability of multi-species interactions. In addition to cultivating fungus gardens, these ants have domesticated actinomycete bacteria to defend gardens against the fungal parasite Escovopsis and possibly other pathogens. Panamanian Acromyrmex echinatior leaf-cutting ants primarily associate with actinomycetes of the genus Pseudonocardia. Colonies are inoculated with one of two vertically transmitted phylotypes (Ps1 or Ps2), and maintain the same phylotype over their lifetime. We performed a cross-fostering experiment to test whether co-adaptations between ants and bacterial phylotypes have evolved, and how this affects bacterial growth and ant prophylactic behavior after infection with Escovopsis. We show that Pseudonocardia readily colonized ants irrespective of their colony of origin, but that the Ps2 phylotype, which was previously shown to be better able to maintain its monocultural integrity after workers became foragers than Ps1, reached a higher final cover when grown on its native host than on alternative hosts. The frequencies of major grooming and weeding behaviors co-varied with symbiont/host combinations, showing that ant behavior also was affected when cuticular actinomycete phylotypes were swapped. These results show that the interactions between leaf-cutting ants and Pseudonocardia bear signatures of mutual co-adaptation within a single ant population.

  19. Mechanism of leaf-cutting ant colony suppression by fipronil used in attractive toxic baits.

    PubMed

    Gandra, Lailla C; Amaral, Karina D; Couceiro, Joel C; Della Lucia, Terezinha Mc; Guedes, Raul Nc

    2016-08-01

    Attractive toxic baits are the prevailing method for managing leaf-cutting ants in the eucalypt forests planted for the production of pulp, paper, timber and charcoal. For successful use in these baits, the insecticidal compounds need to circumvent the typical defences of the eusocial leaf-cutting ants. The challenge is to have an insecticide in the bait that will not directly harm and/or compromise foraging workers, but that will eventually suppress the colony. These underlying mechanisms are poorly known, and here the potential mechanism of fipronil activity in toxic baits for leaf-cutting ants was assessed using colonies of the representative Neotropical Acromyrmex subterraneus subterraneus (Forel, 1893). Although forager activity was not directly impaired by fipronil, the insecticide affected forager nestmate interactions (auto- and allogrooming) and waste removal and, more importantly, greatly affected the minor workers, impairing their activities of fungus garden cultivation and progeny handling. The fast decay of the fungus garden compromised the sustainability of the colonies, ultimately leading to their demise within 8 days. The behavioural effects of sublethal insecticide exposure towards minor workers are the main determinants of insecticide activity as ant baits and should be targeted in developing such compounds. © 2016 Society of Chemical Industry. © 2016 Society of Chemical Industry.

  20. 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.

  1. 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.

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

    PubMed

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

    2014-05-01

    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.

  3. Underground anemotactic orientation in leaf-cutting ants: perception of airflow and experience-dependent choice of airflow direction during digging.

    PubMed

    Halboth, Florian; Roces, Flavio

    2017-09-19

    Air exchange between the large nests of Atta vollenweideri leaf-cutting ants and the environment strongly relies on a passive, wind-induced ventilation mechanism. Air moves through nest tunnels and airflow direction depends on the location of the tunnel openings on the nest mound. We hypothesized that ants might use the direction of airflow along nest tunnels as orientation cue in the context of climate control, as digging workers might prefer to broaden or to close tunnels with inflowing or outflowing air in order to regulate nest ventilation. To investigate anemotactic orientation in Atta vollenweideri, we first tested the ants' ability to perceive air movements by confronting single workers with airflow stimuli in the range 0 to 20 cm/s. Workers responded to airflow velocities ≥ 2 cm/s, and the number of ants reacting to the stimulus increased with increasing airflow speed. Second, we asked whether digging workers use airflow direction as an orientation cue. Workers were exposed to either inflow or outflow of air while digging in the nest and could subsequently choose between two digging sites providing either inflow or outflow of air, respectively. Workers significantly chose the side with the same airflow direction they experienced before. When no airflow was present during initial digging, workers showed no preference for airflow directions. Workers developed preferences for airflow direction only after previous exposure to a given airflow direction. We suggest that experience-modified anemotaxis might help leaf-cutting ants spatially organize their digging activity inside the nest during tasks related to climate control.

  4. Essential Oil of Aristolochia trilobata: Synthesis, Routes of Exposure, Acute Toxicity, Binary Mixtures and Behavioral Effects on Leaf-Cutting Ants.

    PubMed

    de Oliveira, Bruna Maria S; Melo, Carlisson R; Alves, Péricles B; Santos, Abraão A; Santos, Ane Caroline C; Santana, Alisson da S; Araújo, Ana Paula A; Nascimento, Pedro E S; Blank, Arie F; Bacci, Leandro

    2017-02-25

    Plants of the genus Aristolochia have been frequently reported as important medicinal plants. Despite their high bioactive potential, to date, there are no reports of their effects on leaf-cutting ants. Therefore, the present study aimed to evaluate the insecticidal activity of the essential oil of Aristolochia trilobata and its major components on Atta sexdens and Acromyrmex balzani, two species of leaf-cutting ants. The bioassays were performed regarding routes of exposure, acute toxicity, binary mixtures of the major components and behavioral effects. Twenty-five components were identified in the essential oil of A. trilobata using a gas chromatographic system equipped with a mass spectrometer and a flame ionization detector. The components found in higher proportions were sulcatyl acetate, limonene, p-cymene and linalool. The essential oil of A. trilobata and its individual major components were efficient against A. balzani and A. sexdens workers when applied by fumigation. These components showed fast and efficient insecticidal activity on ants. The components acted synergistically and additively on A. balzani and A. sexdens, respectively, and caused a strong repellency/irritability in the ants. Thus, our results demonstrate the great potential of the essential oil of A. trilobata and its major components for the development of new insecticides.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. Foraging and leaf-cutting of the desert gardening ant Acromyrmex versicolor versicolor (Pergande) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Gamboa, George J

    1975-03-01

    Four colonies of the desert leaf-cutter ant Acromyrmex versicolor versicolor (Pergande) located 30 miles N.E. of Tempe, Arizona were observed over a 7 month period. The ants utilized trails in foraging, a characteristic of higher attines, as well as foraging singly, a typical pattern among the more primitive gardeners. The ants cut and collected both dry and green vegetation with dry grasses comprising the bulk of the forage. The ants increased their cutting of green vegetation after significant rainfall but collected dry grasses almost exclusively during dry periods. Detailed macro-motion picture analysis of leaf-cutting revealed that the desert gardener utilized a unique technique for cutting compound desert leaves.

  8. 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

  9. Collective Response of Leaf-Cutting Ants to the Effects of Wind on Foraging Activity.

    PubMed

    Alma, Andrea Marina; Farji-Brener, Alejandro G; Elizalde, Luciana

    2016-11-01

    One advantage of sociality is to mitigate environmental restrictions through collective behavior. Here we document a colony-level response of leaf-cutting ants to wind, an environmental factor that impedes foraging. Given that larger ants adhere more strongly to the substrate, increasing forager size in windy conditions should reduce the negative effect of wind. We tested this idea for Acromyrmex lobicornis in windy regions of Patagonia. We examined (1) whether the fraction of larger ants versus smaller ants increased in windy conditions and (2) whether the effect of wind on the ants' movement was lower for larger ants. The size-frequency distribution of foragers was skewed more toward larger ants in nature under more windy conditions. Under windy conditions in the field, the mobility of smaller ants was more reduced than that of larger ants. The change toward larger foragers in windy conditions reduced the negative effect of wind by 32%, illustrating how a social organism can collectively mitigate the adverse effects of the environment.

  10. High recombination frequency creates genotypic diversity in colonies of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior.

    PubMed

    Sirviö, A; Gadau, J; Rueppell, O; Lamatsch, D; Boomsma, J J; Pamilo, P; Page, R E

    2006-09-01

    Honeybees are known to have genetically diverse colonies because queens mate with many males and the recombination rate is extremely high. Genetic diversity among social insect workers has been hypothesized to improve general performance of large and complex colonies, but this idea has not been tested in other social insects. Here, we present a linkage map and an estimate of the recombination rate for Acromyrmex echinatior, a leaf-cutting ant that resembles the honeybee in having multiple mating of queens and colonies of approximately the same size. A map of 145 AFLP markers in 22 linkage groups yielded a total recombinational size of 2076 cM and an inferred recombination rate of 161 kb cM(-1) (or 6.2 cM Mb(-1)). This estimate is lower than in the honeybee but, as far as the mapping criteria can be compared, higher than in any other insect mapped so far. Earlier studies on A. echinatior have demonstrated that variation in division of labour and pathogen resistance has a genetic component and that genotypic diversity among workers may thus give colonies of this leaf-cutting ant a functional advantage. The present result is therefore consistent with the hypothesis that complex social life can select for an increased recombination rate through effects on genotypic diversity and colony performance.

  11. 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

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

    PubMed

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

    2009-03-24

    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.

  13. Dynamic Wolbachia prevalence in Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants: potential for a nutritional symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Andersen, S B; Boye, M; Nash, D R; Boomsma, J J

    2012-07-01

    Wolbachia are renowned as reproductive parasites, but their phenotypic effects in eusocial insects are not well understood. We used a combination of qrt-PCR, fluorescence in situ hybridization and laser scanning confocal microscopy to evaluate the dynamics of Wolbachia infections in the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex octospinosus across developmental stages of sterile workers. We confirm that workers are infected with one or two widespread wsp genotypes of Wolbachia, show that colony prevalence is always 100% and characterize two rare recombinant genotypes. One dominant genotype is always present and most abundant, whereas another only proliferates in adult workers of some colonies and is barely detectable in larvae and pupae. An explanation may be that Wolbachia genotypes compete for host resources in immature stages while adult tissues provide substantially more niche space. Tissue-specific prevalence of the two genotypes differs, with the rarer genotype being over-represented in the adult foregut and thorax muscles. Both genotypes occur extracellularly in the foregut, suggesting an unknown mutualistic function in worker ant nutrition. Both genotypes are also abundant in the faecal fluid of the ants, suggesting that they may have extended functional phenotypes in the fungus garden that the ants manure with their own faeces.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. Ecological engineering by a native leaf-cutting ant increases the performance of exotic plant species.

    PubMed

    Farji-Brener, Alejandro G; Lescano, Natalia; Ghermandi, Luciana

    2010-05-01

    Numerous mechanisms are proposed to explain why exotic plants successfully invade natural communities. However, the positive effects of native engineers on exotic plant species have received less consideration. We tested whether the nutrient-rich soil patches created by a native ecological engineer (refuse dumps from the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex lobicornis) increase the performance of exotic more than native plants. In a greenhouse experiment, individuals from several native and exotic species were planted in pots with refuse dumps (RDs) and non-nest soils (NNSs). Total plant biomass and foliar nutrient content were measured at the end of the experiment. We also estimated the cover of exotic and native plant species in external RDs from 54 field ant nests and adjacent areas. Greenhouse plants showed more biomass and foliar nutrient content in RDs than in NNS pots. Nevertheless, differences in the final mean biomass among RD and NNS plants were especially great in exotics. Accordingly, the cover of exotic plants was higher in field RDs than in adjacent, non-nest soils. Our results demonstrated that plants can benefit from the enhanced nutrient content of ant RDs, and that A. lobicornis acts as an ecosystem engineer, creating a substrate that especially increases the performance of exotics. This supports the fluctuating resource hypothesis as a mechanism to promote biological invasions, and illustrates how this hypothesis may operate in nature. Since ant nests and exotic plants are more common in disturbed than in pristine environments, the role of ant nests in promoting biological invasions might be of particular interest. Proposals including the use of engineer species to restore disturbed habitats should be planned with caution because of their potential role in promoting invasions.

  19. Foraging activity of an Amazonian leaf-cutting ant: responses to changes in the availability of woody plants and to previous plant damage.

    PubMed

    Vasconcelos, H L

    1997-10-01

    This study investigates some factors affecting the foraging activity of the leaf-cutting ant Atta laevigata. The study was conducted on an abandoned farm near Manaus, in Brazilian Amazonia, where forest was beginning to regenerate. I determined how temporal changes in the structure of the woody plant community (linked to the regeneration process) affected the leaf harvesting activity of this Neotropical ant. A 0.39-ha plot was established, and woody plants existing and emerging in this plot were identified, tagged, measured and mapped. At intervals of approximately 14 days all marked plants were checked to determine which had been attacked by A. laevigata during that period. Woody plant density doubled over the 18-months of the study. However, the number of plants attacked by A. laevigata, controlling for seasonal differences in ant activity, was independent of the number available for attack. The number of plants attacked was also independent of the number of new plants emerged in the previous 2 months. Apart from changes in total plant density, the relative abundance of most species also changed with time. Data on the composition of the plant community and on the composition of the ants' diet at different time intervals were subject to ordination analysis. The analyses revealed that successional changes in the composition of the woody plant community did significantly affect the composition of the leaf diet of A. laevigata. Variations in the ants' diet correlated most strongly with variations in the abundance of Bellucia imperialis. As this increased in abundance its relative contribution to the ants' diet increased. In addition, I observed a small decline in the diversity of plant resources exploited by the ants. B. imperialis was one of the species most preferred by A. laevigata, suggesting that variations in the diversity of its diet were related to the abundance of preferred species. The chances of an individual plant being attacked was independent of

  20. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. Trail-marking substance of the Texas leaf-cutting ant: source and potency

    Treesearch

    John C. Moser; Murray S. Blum

    1963-01-01

    The trail-marking substance of Atta texana (Buckley) is formed in the true poison gland and deposited by the sting. This attractant is initially produced by teneral workers. The substance obtained from mature, large workers is the most potent.

  4. Diversity of entomopathogenic fungi near leaf-cutting ant nests in a neotropical forest, with particular reference to Metarhizium anisopliae var. anisopliae.

    PubMed

    Hughes, W O H; Thomsen, L; Eilenberg, J; Boomsma, J J

    2004-01-01

    We investigated the prevalence of entomopathogenic fungi associated with leaf-cutting ant colonies in a small area of tropical forest in Panama. There was a high abundance of Metarhizium anisopliae var. anisopliae near the colonies. Beauveria bassiana was also detected in the soil, Aspergillus flavus in dump material, and six Camponotus atriceps ants were found infected with Cordyceps sp. Based on a partial sequence of the IGS region, almost all of the M. anisopliae var. anisopliae isolates fell within one of the three main clades of M. anisopliae var. anisopliae, but with there still being considerable diversity within this clade. The vast majority of leaf-cutting ants collected were not infected by any entomopathogenic fungi. While leaf-cutting ants at this site must, therefore, regularly come into contact with a diversity of entomopathogenic fungi, they do not appear to be normally infected by them.

  5. Nest Enlargement in Leaf-Cutting Ants: Relocated Brood and Fungus Trigger the Excavation of New Chambers

    PubMed Central

    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

  6. 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

  7. Alarm Pheromones of the Ant Atta Texana

    Treesearch

    John C. Moser; R. C. Brownlee; R. Silverstein

    1968-01-01

    Methyl-3-heptanone (0.59 μg/head) and 2-heptanone (0.14 μg/head) are the main volatile components of the mandibular glands of major workers. In the laboratory, worker ants detected and were attracted by 4-methyl-3-heptanone at a concentration of 5.7 x 10-13 g/cm3 (2.7 x 107 molecules...

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. Foraging grass-cutting ants (Atta vollenweideri) maintain stability by balancing their loads with controlled head movements.

    PubMed

    Moll, Karin; Roces, Flavio; Federle, Walter

    2010-07-01

    Grass-cutting ants (Atta vollenweideri) carry leaf fragments several times heavier and longer than the workers themselves over considerable distances back to their nest. Workers transport fragments in an upright, slightly backwards-tilted position. To investigate how they maintain stability and control the carried fragment's position, we measured head and fragment positions from video recordings. Load-transporting ants often fell over, demonstrating the biomechanical difficulty of this behavior. Long fragments were carried at a significantly steeper angle than short fragments of the same mass. Workers did not hold fragments differently between the mandibles, but performed controlled up and down head movements at the neck joint. By attaching additional mass at the fragment's tip to load-carrying ants, we demonstrated that they are able to adjust the fragment angle. When we forced ants to transport loads across inclines, workers walking uphill carried fragments at a significantly steeper angle, and downhill at a shallower angle than ants walking horizontally. However, we observed similar head movements in unladen workers, indicating a generalized reaction to slopes that may have other functions in addition to maintaining stability. Our results underline the importance of proximate, biomechanical factors for the understanding of the foraging process in leaf-cutting ants.

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

    PubMed

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

    2010-08-01

    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.

  13. Let your enemy do the work: within-host interactions between two fungal parasites of leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Hughes, W O H; Boomsma, J J

    2004-02-07

    Within-host competition is an important factor in host-parasite relationships, yet most studies consider interactions involving only single parasite species. We investigated the interaction between a virulent obligate entomopathogenic fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae var. anisopliae, and a normally avirulent, opportunistic fungal pathogen, Aspergillus flavus, in their leaf-cutting ant host, Acromyrmex echinatior. Surprisingly, the latter normally out-competed the former in mixed infections and had enhanced fitness relative to when infecting in isolation. The result is most probably due to Metarhizium inhibiting the host's immune defences, which would otherwise normally prevent infections by Aspergillus. With the host defences negated by the virulent parasite, the avirulent parasite was then able to out-compete its competitor. This result is strikingly similar to that seen in immunocompromised vertebrate hosts and indicates that avirulent parasites may play a more important role in host life histories than is generally realized.

  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.

  15. The genome of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior suggests key adaptations to advanced social life and fungus farming

    PubMed Central

    Nygaard, Sanne; Zhang, Guojie; Schiøtt, Morten; Li, Cai; Wurm, Yannick; Hu, Haofu; Zhou, Jiajian; Ji, Lu; Qiu, Feng; Rasmussen, Morten; Pan, Hailin; Hauser, Frank; Krogh, Anders; Grimmelikhuijzen, Cornelis J.P.; Wang, Jun; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2011-01-01

    We present a high-quality (>100× depth) Illumina genome sequence of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior, a model species for symbiosis and reproductive conflict studies. We compare this genome with three previously sequenced genomes of ants from different subfamilies and focus our analyses on aspects of the genome likely to be associated with known evolutionary changes. The first is the specialized fungal diet of A. echinatior, where we find gene loss in the ant's arginine synthesis pathway, loss of detoxification genes, and expansion of a group of peptidase proteins. One of these is a unique ant-derived contribution to the fecal fluid, which otherwise consists of “garden manuring” fungal enzymes that are unaffected by ant digestion. The second is multiple mating of queens and ejaculate competition, which may be associated with a greatly expanded nardilysin-like peptidase gene family. The third is sex determination, where we could identify only a single homolog of the feminizer gene. As other ants and the honeybee have duplications of this gene, we hypothesize that this may partly explain the frequent production of diploid male larvae in A. echinatior. The fourth is the evolution of eusociality, where we find a highly conserved ant-specific profile of neuropeptide genes that may be related to caste determination. These first analyses of the A. echinatior genome indicate that considerable genetic changes are likely to have accompanied the transition from hunter-gathering to agricultural food production 50 million years ago, and the transition from single to multiple queen mating 10 million years ago. PMID:21719571

  16. Symbiont recognition of mutualistic bacteria by Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Zhang, Mingzi M; Poulsen, Michael; Currie, Cameron R

    2007-08-01

    Symbiont choice has been proposed to play an important role in shaping many symbiotic relationships, including the fungus-growing ant-microbe mutualism. Over millions of years, fungus-growing ants have defended their fungus gardens from specialized parasites with antibiotics produced by an actinomycete bacterial mutualist (genus Pseudonocardia). Despite the potential of being infected by phylogenetically diverse strains of parasites, each ant colony maintains only a single Pseudonocardia symbiont strain, which is primarily vertically transmitted between colonies by the founding queens. In this study, we show that Acromyrmex leaf-cutter ants are able to differentiate between their native actinomycete strain and a variety of foreign strains isolated from sympatric and allopatric Acromyrmex species, in addition to strains originating from other fungus-growing ant genera. The recognition mechanism is sufficiently sensitive for the ants to discriminate between closely related symbiont strains. Our findings suggest that symbiont recognition may play a crucial role in the fungus-growing ant-bacterium mutualism, likely allowing the ants to retain ecological flexibility necessary for defending their garden from diverse parasites and, at the same time, resolve potential conflict that can arise from rearing competing symbiont strains.

  17. Isolation, identification, synthesis and biological activity of volatile compounds from the heads of Atta ants

    Treesearch

    R. G. Riley; R. M. Silverstein; John C. Moser

    1974-01-01

    S-(+)-4-methyl-3-hetanone has been identified as the principal alarm pheromone of Atta texana and Atta cephalotes. Both enantiomers of 4-methyl-3-heptanone have been synthesized and their biological activities have been compared on both species of ants. Comparison of the geometric averages of responnse rations, at...

  18. 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. © 2016 The Author(s).

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

    PubMed Central

    Farji-Brener, Alejandro G.; Elizalde, Luciana; Amador-Vargas, Sabrina

    2016-01-01

    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

  20. 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

  1. 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.

  2. Caste-specific expression of genetic variation in the size of antibiotic-producing glands of leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Hughes, W O H; Bot, A N M; Boomsma, J J

    2010-02-22

    Social insect castes represent some of the most spectacular examples of phenotypic plasticity, with each caste being associated with different environmental conditions during their life. Here we examine the level of genetic variation in different castes of two polyandrous species of Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ant for the antibiotic-producing metapleural gland, which has a major role in defence against parasites. Gland size increases allometrically. The small workers that play the main role in disease defence have relatively large glands compared with larger workers, while the glands of gynes are substantially larger than those of any workers, for their body size. The gland size of large workers varies significantly between patrilines in both Acromyrmex echinatior and Acromyrmex octospinosus. We also examined small workers and gynes in A. echinatior, again finding genetic variation in gland size in these castes. There were significant positive relationships between the gland sizes of patrilines in the different castes, indicating that the genetic mechanism underpinning the patriline variation has remained similar across phenotypes. The level of expressed genetic variation decreased from small workers to large workers to gynes. This is consistent with the hypothesis that there is individual selection on disease defence in founding queens and colony-level selection on disease defence in the worker castes.

  3. 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

  4. Use of geostatistics to determine the spatial distribution and infestation rate of leaf-cutting ant nests (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in eucalyptus plantations.

    PubMed

    Lasmar, O; Zanetti, R; dos Santos, A; Fernandes, B V

    2012-08-01

    One of the fundamental steps in pest sampling is the assessment of the population distribution in the field. Several studies have investigated the distribution and appropriate sampling methods for leaf-cutting ants; however, more reliable methods are still required, such as those that use geostatistics. The objective of this study was to determine the spatial distribution and infestation rate of leaf-cutting ant nests in eucalyptus plantations by using geostatistics. The study was carried out in 2008 in two eucalyptus stands in Paraopeba, Minas Gerais, Brazil. All of the nests in the studied area were located and used for the generation of GIS maps, and the spatial pattern of distribution was determined considering the number and size of nests. Each analysis and map was made using the R statistics program and the geoR package. The nest spatial distribution in a savanna area of Minas Gerais was clustered to a certain extent. The models generated allowed the production of kriging maps of areas infested with leaf-cutting ants, where chemical intervention would be necessary, reducing the control costs, impact on humans, and the environment.

  5. Oviposition, Life Cycle, and Longevity of the Leaf-Cutting Ant Acromyrmex rugosus rugosus.

    PubMed

    Verza, Sandra S; Mussury, Rosilda M; Camargo, Roberto S; Andrade, Ana Paula P; Forti, Luiz C

    2017-08-04

    Studies related to the demography of individual members from ant colonies have received little attention, although they are the basis to understanding the population dynamics of colonies. Thus, the objective of this work was to study the queen oviposition rate and the duration of the life cycle and longevity of Acromyrmex rugosus rugosus workers. To determine the oviposition rate, queens from three colonies were individually placed in plastic containers, and the eggs laid were quantified over a 96 h period. The development of the immature forms was observed every 24 h, with which the duration of each stage of development was determined. To verify the longevity of workers, the newly emerged adults were marked and daily observations were made. According to the results, there is variation in the development time of immature forms within the colony itself and between colonies. In addition, the number of eggs deposited was also inconstant in the three colonies, ranging from 5 to 119 eggs per day, while the longevity of workers varied from 3 to 7 months. Occasionally, it was found that the workers feed on the eggs produced by the queen; besides, there was a disappearance of larvae and pupae during the research, indicating a possibility of the practice of cannibalism in this species.

  6. Carbon dioxide sensing in an obligate insect-fungus symbiosis: CO2 preferences of leaf-cutting ants to rear their mutualistic fungus.

    PubMed

    Römer, Daniela; Bollazzi, Martin; Roces, Flavio

    2017-01-01

    Defense against biotic or abiotic stresses is one of the benefits of living in symbiosis. Leaf-cutting ants, which live in an obligate mutualism with a fungus, attenuate thermal and desiccation stress of their partner through behavioral responses, by choosing suitable places for fungus-rearing across the soil profile. The underground environment also presents hypoxic (low oxygen) and hypercapnic (high carbon dioxide) conditions, which can negatively influence the symbiont. Here, we investigated whether workers of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex lundii use the CO2 concentration as an orientation cue when selecting a place to locate their fungus garden, and whether they show preferences for specific CO2 concentrations. We also evaluated whether levels preferred by workers for fungus-rearing differ from those selected for themselves. In the laboratory, CO2 preferences were assessed in binary choices between chambers with different CO2 concentrations, by quantifying number of workers in each chamber and amount of relocated fungus. Leaf-cutting ants used the CO2 concentration as a spatial cue when selecting places for fungus-rearing. A. lundii preferred intermediate CO2 levels, between 1 and 3%, as they would encounter at soil depths where their nest chambers are located. In addition, workers avoided both atmospheric and high CO2 levels as they would occur outside the nest and at deeper soil layers, respectively. In order to prevent fungus desiccation, however, workers relocated fungus to high CO2 levels, which were otherwise avoided. Workers' CO2 preferences for themselves showed no clear-cut pattern. We suggest that workers avoid both atmospheric and high CO2 concentrations not because they are detrimental for themselves, but because of their consequences for the symbiotic partner. Whether the preferred CO2 concentrations are beneficial for symbiont growth remains to be investigated, as well as whether the observed preferences for fungus-rearing influences the ants

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

    PubMed Central

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

    2012-01-01

    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

  8. 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.

  9. Carbon dioxide sensing in an obligate insect-fungus symbiosis: CO2 preferences of leaf-cutting ants to rear their mutualistic fungus

    PubMed Central

    Bollazzi, Martin; Roces, Flavio

    2017-01-01

    Defense against biotic or abiotic stresses is one of the benefits of living in symbiosis. Leaf-cutting ants, which live in an obligate mutualism with a fungus, attenuate thermal and desiccation stress of their partner through behavioral responses, by choosing suitable places for fungus-rearing across the soil profile. The underground environment also presents hypoxic (low oxygen) and hypercapnic (high carbon dioxide) conditions, which can negatively influence the symbiont. Here, we investigated whether workers of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex lundii use the CO2 concentration as an orientation cue when selecting a place to locate their fungus garden, and whether they show preferences for specific CO2 concentrations. We also evaluated whether levels preferred by workers for fungus-rearing differ from those selected for themselves. In the laboratory, CO2 preferences were assessed in binary choices between chambers with different CO2 concentrations, by quantifying number of workers in each chamber and amount of relocated fungus. Leaf-cutting ants used the CO2 concentration as a spatial cue when selecting places for fungus-rearing. A. lundii preferred intermediate CO2 levels, between 1 and 3%, as they would encounter at soil depths where their nest chambers are located. In addition, workers avoided both atmospheric and high CO2 levels as they would occur outside the nest and at deeper soil layers, respectively. In order to prevent fungus desiccation, however, workers relocated fungus to high CO2 levels, which were otherwise avoided. Workers’ CO2 preferences for themselves showed no clear-cut pattern. We suggest that workers avoid both atmospheric and high CO2 concentrations not because they are detrimental for themselves, but because of their consequences for the symbiotic partner. Whether the preferred CO2 concentrations are beneficial for symbiont growth remains to be investigated, as well as whether the observed preferences for fungus-rearing influences the ants

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

    PubMed

    Grell, Morten N; Linde, Tore; Nygaard, Sanne; Nielsen, Kåre L; Boomsma, Jacobus J; Lange, Lene

    2013-12-28

    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. 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. 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, consistent with the ants

  11. The role of symbiont genetic distance and potential adaptability in host preference towards Pseudonocardia symbionts in Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    Poulsen, Michael; Maynard, Janielle; Roland, Damien L; Currie, Cameron R

    2011-01-01

    Fungus-growing ants display symbiont preference in behavioral assays, both towards the fungus they cultivate for food and Actinobacteria they maintain on their cuticle for antibiotic production against parasites. These Actinobacteria, genus Pseudonocardia Henssen (Pseudonocardiacea: Actinomycetales), help defend the ants' fungal mutualist from specialized parasites. In Acromyrmex Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) leaf-cutting ants, individual colonies maintain either a single or a few strains of Pseudonocardia, and the symbiont is primarily vertically transmitted between generations by colony-founding queens. A recent report found that Acromyrmex workers are able to differentiate between their native Pseudonocardia strain and non-native strains isolated from sympatric or allopatric Acromyrmex species, and show preference for their native strain. Here we explore worker preference when presented with two non-native strains, elucidating the role of genetic distance on preference between strains and Pseudonocardia origin. Our findings suggest that ants tend to prefer bacteria more closely related to their native bacterium and that genetic similarity is probably more important than whether symbionts are ant-associated or free-living. Preliminary findings suggest that when continued exposure to a novel Pseudonocardia strain occurs, ant symbiont preference is potentially adaptable, with colonies apparently being able to alter symbiont preference over time. These findings are discussed in relation to the role of adaptive recognition, potential ecological flexibility in symbiont preference, and more broadly, in relation to self versus non-self recognition.

  12. The Role of Symbiont Genetic Distance and Potential Adaptability in Host Preference Towards Pseudonocardia Symbionts in Acromyrmex Leaf-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Poulsen, Michael; Maynard, Janielle; Roland, Damien L; Currie, Cameron R

    2011-01-01

    Fungus-growing ants display symbiont preference in behavioral assays, both towards the fungus they cultivate for food and Actinobacteria they maintain on their cuticle for antibiotic production against parasites. These Actinobacteria, genus Pseudonocardia Henssen (Pseudonocardiacea: Actinomycetales), help defend the ants' fungal mutualist from specialized parasites. In Acromyrmex Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) leaf-cutting ants, individual colonies maintain either a single or a few strains of Pseudonocardia, and the symbiont is primarily vertically transmitted between generations by colony-founding queens. A recent report found that Acromyrmex workers are able to differentiate between their native Pseudonocardia strain and non-native strains isolated from sympatric or allopatric Acromyrmex species, and show preference for their native strain. Here we explore worker preference when presented with two non-native strains, elucidating the role of genetic distance on preference between strains and Pseudonocardia origin. Our findings suggest that ants tend to prefer bacteria more closely related to their native bacterium and that genetic similarity is probably more important than whether symbionts are ant-associated or free-living. Preliminary findings suggest that when continued exposure to a novel Pseudonocardia strain occurs, ant symbiont preference is potentially adaptable, with colonies apparently being able to alter symbiont preference over time. These findings are discussed in relation to the role of adaptive recognition, potential ecological flexibility in symbiont preference, and more broadly, in relation to self versus non-self recognition. PMID:22225537

  13. Microsatellite loci characterized in the leaf-cutter ant Atta laevigata

    PubMed Central

    2013-01-01

    Background The leaf-cutter ant Atta laevigata (Formicidae: Attini) is an agricultural pest largely distributed in the Neotropics and a model organism for studies of evolution, speciation and population genetics. Microsatellites are a very powerful tool for these kind of studies, but such markers are not available for studies on A. laevigata. In the present report, we describe the isolation and characterization of nine microsatellite loci in A. laevigata and the testing of these markers across other species of leaf-cutter ants. Findings Nine microsatellite loci, consisting of six dinucloeotide, one trinucleotide, one tetranucleotide, and one di/trinucleotide repeat motifs, were isolated and characterized. Primers and protocols were successfully designed to selectively amplify these markers. To test effectiveness of these markers for detailed population genetic studies, we genotyped female workers collected from 36 monogynic nests of A. laevigata and found that eight loci were within Hardy–Weinberg expectations, while the remaining locus had a deficiency of heterozygotes. Micro-Checker analysis of individuals from 55 monogynic nests indicated that loci Alae11, Alae24, Alae18 showed signs of null alleles. For the remaining six loci, the number of alleles per locus ranged between 2 and 11, with expected heterozygosity ranging between 0.07 and 0.88. All of these loci cross-amplified in other species of Atta. Conclusions These six polymorphic microsatellite loci should prove useful for future genetic investigations of the pest species Atta laevigata, as well as studies of other species of leaf-cutter ants in the genus Atta. PMID:23958064

  14. Long-term avoidance memory formation is associated with a transient increase in mushroom body synaptic complexes in leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    Falibene, Agustina; Roces, Flavio; Rössler, Wolfgang

    2015-01-01

    Long-term behavioral changes related to learning and experience have been shown to be associated with structural remodeling in the brain. Leaf-cutting ants learn to avoid previously preferred plants after they have proved harmful for their symbiotic fungus, a process that involves long-term olfactory memory. We studied the dynamics of brain microarchitectural changes after long-term olfactory memory formation following avoidance learning in Acromyrmex ambiguus. After performing experiments to control for possible neuronal changes related to age and body size, we quantified synaptic complexes (microglomeruli, MG) in olfactory regions of the mushroom bodies (MBs) at different times after learning. Long-term avoidance memory formation was associated with a transient change in MG densities. Two days after learning, MG density was higher than before learning. At days 4 and 15 after learning—when ants still showed plant avoidance—MG densities had decreased to the initial state. The structural reorganization of MG triggered by long-term avoidance memory formation clearly differed from changes promoted by pure exposure to and collection of novel plants with distinct odors. Sensory exposure by the simultaneous collection of several, instead of one, non-harmful plant species resulted in a decrease in MG densities in the olfactory lip. We hypothesize that while sensory exposure leads to MG pruning in the MB olfactory lip, the formation of long-term avoidance memory involves an initial growth of new MG followed by subsequent pruning. PMID:25904854

  15. Phylogeny of leafcutter ants in the genus Atta Fabricius (Formicidae: Attini) based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences.

    PubMed

    Bacci, Maurício; Solomon, Scott E; Mueller, Ulrich G; Martins, Vanderlei G; Carvalho, Alfredo O R; Vieira, Luiz G E; Silva-Pinhati, Ana Carla O

    2009-06-01

    Leafcutting ants of the genus Atta are the most conspicuous members of the tribe Attini, the fungus-growing ants. Atta species have long attracted the attention of naturalists, and have since become a common model system for the study of complex insect societies as well as for the study of coevolutionary dynamics due to their numerous interactions with fungi and other microbes. Nevertheless, systematics and taxonomy of the 15 species in the genus Atta have proven challenging, due in part to the extreme levels of worker polymorphism these species display, leading to disagreements about the validity of as many as five different subgenera and calling into question the monophyly of the genus. Here, we use DNA sequence information from fragments of three mitochondrial genes (COI, tRNA leucine and COII) and one nuclear gene (EF1-alphaF1), totaling 1070 base pairs, to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships of Atta species using maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference techniques. Our results provide support for monophyly of the genus Atta, and suggest that the genus is divided into four monophyletic groups, which correspond to four of the five previously erected Atta subgenera: Atta sensu stricto and Archeatta, each with species composition identical to earlier proposals; Neoatta and Epiatta, with major differences in species composition from earlier proposals. The current geographic ranges of these species suggest that the historical separation of South America from Central and North America has played a role in speciation within this genus.

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  18. Genotoxicity evaluation of two metallic-insecticides using Allium cepa and Tradescantia pallida: A new alternative against leaf-cutting ants.

    PubMed

    de Souza, Raphael Bastão; de Souza, Cleiton Pereira; Bueno, Odair Correa; Fontanetti, Carmem Silvia

    2017-02-01

    In order to combat leaf-cutting ants, the pesticide sulfluramid used to be the most widely utilized active ingredient. However, its use was banned in 2009 by the Stockholm Convention, although some countries were allowed to continue using it. As an effective alternative to its replacement, researchers developed a metallic-insecticide system, which is a natural product linked to metal complexes. Thus, the aim of this study was to evaluate the ability of these new metallic-insecticides in change the genetic material of non-target organisms. The tests were performed utilizing chromosomal aberrations and micronucleus tests in the Allium cepa test system and the Trad-MCN test in Tradescantia pallida. To better understand the results, one of the components of the formula, 5-methyl-phenanthroline, was also analyzed according to the same parameters. To A. cepa, the results showed that one of the metallic insecticides induced cytotoxicity and genotoxicity at different concentrations, while the other metallic-insecticide showed chromosomal instability only at the highest concentration. The analysis of 5-methyl-phenanthroline revealed that it can be related with the positive results, since genotoxic effects were induced. In the Trad-MCN test, none of the metallic-insecticides showed genotoxic activity, although one of them induced more micronucleus formation. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

  19. Discovering the Giant Nest Architecture of Grass-Cutting Ants, Atta capiguara (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)

    PubMed Central

    Forti, Luiz Carlos; Protti de Andrade, Ana Paula; Camargo, Roberto da Silva; Caldato, Nadia; Moreira, Aldenise Alves

    2017-01-01

    Atta capiguara is a grass-cutting ant species frequently found in Cerrado biome. However, little is known about the giant nest architecture of this ant. In this study, we investigated the architecture of three A. capiguara nests from a fragment of Cerrado in Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil. Casts were made of the nests by filling them with cement to permit better visualization of internal structures such as chambers and tunnels. After excavation, the depth and dimensions (length, width, and height) of the chambers were measured. The results showed the shape of Atta capiguara nests consisting of mounds of loose soil with unique features resembling a conic section. The fungus chambers were found distant from the mound of loose soil and were spaced apart and distributed laterally at the soil profile. The waste chambers were located beneath the largest mound of loose soil. Both the fungus and waste chambers were separated and distant. Our study contributes to a better understanding of the so far unknown nest architecture of the grass-cutting ant A. capiguara. PMID:28350352

  20. Discovering the Giant Nest Architecture of Grass-Cutting Ants, Atta capiguara (Hymenoptera, Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Forti, Luiz Carlos; Protti de Andrade, Ana Paula; Camargo, Roberto da Silva; Caldato, Nadia; Moreira, Aldenise Alves

    2017-03-28

    Atta capiguara is a grass-cutting ant species frequently found in Cerrado biome. However, little is known about the giant nest architecture of this ant. In this study, we investigated the architecture of three A. capiguara nests from a fragment of Cerrado in Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil. Casts were made of the nests by filling them with cement to permit better visualization of internal structures such as chambers and tunnels. After excavation, the depth and dimensions (length, width, and height) of the chambers were measured. The results showed the shape of Atta capiguara nests consisting of mounds of loose soil with unique features resembling a conic section. The fungus chambers were found distant from the mound of loose soil and were spaced apart and distributed laterally at the soil profile. The waste chambers were located beneath the largest mound of loose soil. Both the fungus and waste chambers were separated and distant. Our study contributes to a better understanding of the so far unknown nest architecture of the grass-cutting ant A. capiguara.

  1. How Load-Carrying Ants Avoid Falling Over: Mechanical Stability during Foraging in Atta vollenweideri Grass-Cutting Ants

    PubMed Central

    Moll, Karin; Roces, Flavio; Federle, Walter

    2013-01-01

    Background Foraging workers of grass-cutting ants (Atta vollenweideri) regularly carry grass fragments larger than their own body. Fragment length has been shown to influence the ants’ running speed and thereby the colony’s food intake rate. We investigated whether and how grass-cutting ants maintain stability when carrying fragments of two different lengths but identical mass. Principal Findings Ants carried all fragments in an upright, backwards-tilted position, but held long fragments more vertically than short ones. All carrying ants used an alternating tripod gait, where mechanical stability was increased by overlapping stance phases of consecutive steps. The overlap was greatest for ants carrying long fragments, resulting in more legs contacting the ground simultaneously. For all ants, the projection of the total centre of mass (ant and fragment) was often outside the supporting tripod, i.e. the three feet that would be in stance for a non-overlapping tripod gait. Stability was only achieved through additional legs in ground contact. Tripod stability (quantified as the minimum distance of the centre of mass to the edge of the supporting tripod) was significantly smaller for ants with long fragments. Here, tripod stability was lowest at the beginning of each step, when the center of mass was near the posterior margin of the supporting tripod. By contrast, tripod stability was lowest at the end of each step for ants carrying short fragments. Consistently, ants with long fragments mainly fell backwards, whereas ants carrying short fragments mainly fell forwards or to the side. Assuming that transporting ants adjust neither the fragment angle nor the gait, they would be less stable and more likely to fall over. Conclusions In grass-cutting ants, the need to maintain static stability when carrying long grass fragments has led to multiple kinematic adjustments at the expense of a reduced material transport rate. PMID:23300994

  2. Towards a molecular understanding of symbiont function: Identification of a fungal gene for the degradation of xylan in the fungus gardens of leaf-cutting ants

    PubMed Central

    Schiøtt, Morten; De Fine Licht, Henrik H; Lange, Lene; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2008-01-01

    Background Leaf-cutting ants live in symbiosis with a fungus that they rear for food by providing it with live plant material. Until recently the fungus' main inferred function was to make otherwise inaccessible cell wall degradation products available to the ants, but new studies have shed doubt on this idea. To provide evidence for the cell wall degrading capacity of the attine ant symbiont, we designed PCR primers from conserved regions of known xylanase genes, to be used in PCR with genomic DNA from the symbiont as template. We also measured xylanase, cellulase and proteinase activities in the fungus gardens in order to investigate the dynamics of degradation activities. Results We cloned a xylanase gene from the mutualistic fungus of Acromyrmex echinatior, determined its protein sequence, and inserted it in a yeast expression vector to confirm its substrate specificity. Our results show that the fungus has a functional xylanase gene. We also show by lab experiments in vivo that the activity of fungal xylanase and cellulase is not evenly distributed, but concentrated in the lower layer of fungus gardens, with only modest activity in the middle layer where gongylidia are produced and intermediate activity in the newly established top layer. This vertical distribution appears to be negatively correlated with the concentration of glucose, which indicates a directly regulating role of glucose, as has been found in other fungi and has been previously suggested for the ant fungal symbiont. Conclusion The mutualistic fungus of Acromyrmex echinatior has a functional xylanase gene and is thus presumably able to at least partially degrade the cell walls of leaves. This finding supports a saprotrophic origin of the fungal symbiont. The observed distribution of enzyme activity leads us to propose that leaf-substrate degradation in fungus gardens is a multi-step process comparable to normal biodegradation of organic matter in soil ecosystems, but with the crucial difference

  3. Avoidance of plants unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus in leaf-cutting ants: Learning can take place entirely at the colony dump

    PubMed Central

    Roces, Flavio

    2017-01-01

    Plants initially accepted by foraging leaf-cutting ants are later avoided if they prove unsuitable for their symbiotic fungus. Plant avoidance is mediated by the waste produced in the fungus garden soon after the incorporation of the unsuitable leaves, as foragers can learn plant odors and cues from the damaged fungus that are both present in the recently produced waste particles. We asked whether avoidance learning of plants unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus can take place entirely at the colony dump. In order to investigate whether cues available in the waste chamber induce plant avoidance in naïve subcolonies, we exchanged the waste produced by subcolonies fed either fungicide-treated privet leaves or untreated leaves and measured the acceptance of untreated privet leaves before and after the exchange of waste. Second, we evaluated whether foragers could perceive the avoidance cues directly at the dump by quantifying the visits of labeled foragers to the waste chamber. Finally, we asked whether foragers learn to specifically avoid untreated leaves of a plant after a confinement over 3 hours in the dump of subcolonies that were previously fed fungicide-treated leaves of that species. After the exchange of the waste chambers, workers from subcolonies that had access to waste from fungicide-treated privet leaves learned to avoid that plant. One-third of the labeled foragers visited the dump. Furthermore, naïve foragers learned to avoid a specific, previously unsuitable plant if exposed solely to cues of the dump during confinement. We suggest that cues at the dump enable foragers to predict the unsuitable effects of plants even if they had never been experienced in the fungus garden. PMID:28273083

  4. Avoidance of plants unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus in leaf-cutting ants: Learning can take place entirely at the colony dump.

    PubMed

    Arenas, Andrés; Roces, Flavio

    2017-01-01

    Plants initially accepted by foraging leaf-cutting ants are later avoided if they prove unsuitable for their symbiotic fungus. Plant avoidance is mediated by the waste produced in the fungus garden soon after the incorporation of the unsuitable leaves, as foragers can learn plant odors and cues from the damaged fungus that are both present in the recently produced waste particles. We asked whether avoidance learning of plants unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus can take place entirely at the colony dump. In order to investigate whether cues available in the waste chamber induce plant avoidance in naïve subcolonies, we exchanged the waste produced by subcolonies fed either fungicide-treated privet leaves or untreated leaves and measured the acceptance of untreated privet leaves before and after the exchange of waste. Second, we evaluated whether foragers could perceive the avoidance cues directly at the dump by quantifying the visits of labeled foragers to the waste chamber. Finally, we asked whether foragers learn to specifically avoid untreated leaves of a plant after a confinement over 3 hours in the dump of subcolonies that were previously fed fungicide-treated leaves of that species. After the exchange of the waste chambers, workers from subcolonies that had access to waste from fungicide-treated privet leaves learned to avoid that plant. One-third of the labeled foragers visited the dump. Furthermore, naïve foragers learned to avoid a specific, previously unsuitable plant if exposed solely to cues of the dump during confinement. We suggest that cues at the dump enable foragers to predict the unsuitable effects of plants even if they had never been experienced in the fungus garden.

  5. Trail Pheromones: Responses of the Texas Leafcutting Ant, Atta texana to Select Halo- and Cyanopyrrole-2-Aldehydes, Ketones, and Esters

    Treesearch

    P. E. Sonnet; John C. Moser

    1973-01-01

    Several halo- and cyanopyrroles related to the trail pheromone of Atta texana (Buckley), were prepared and tested by a faster and more sensitive bioassay that was previously available. Responsiveness of the ants in descending order to these compounds, based on the substituent in the number two position, is: esters, methyl ketones, aldehydes. Slight...

  6. 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

  7. On the morphology of the worker immatures of the leafcutter ant Atta sexdens Linnaeus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Solis, Daniel Russ; Fox, Eduardo Gonçalves Paterson; Ceccato, Marcela; Reiss, Itamar Cristina; Décio, Pâmela; Lorenzon, Natalia; Da Silva, Natiele Gonçalves; Bueno, Odair Correa

    2012-08-01

    Leafcutter ants of the genus Atta Fabricius are serious agricultural pests. Morphological studies of immature stages within this group are few, and the data provided for species of considerable importance are usually incomplete. In this study, the immatures of Atta sexdens Linnaeus are described and compared using light and scanning electron microscopy. Only specimens from founding stage colonies (i.e., lacking adult workers) were used. The existence of four larval instars was estimated by a frequency plot of maximum head widths, and the larvae of different instars differed from each other mainly by their bodily dimensions. Worker larvae belonged to two distinct morphological castes: (1) gardeners and nurses and (2) within-nest generalists. The worker larvae described in this study differed from a previous description of the same species by the following traits: the existence of a genal lobe, the number of clypeal hairs, the presence of two hairs on the ninth abdominal somite, the presence of hairs on the anterior surface of the labrum, and the shape of the maxillary palpus. This study provides a comparative analysis of immature stages of A. sexdens that may be relevant to future morphological and biological studies of the Attini.

  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.

  9. Ant-fungus species combinations engineer physiological activity of fungus gardens.

    PubMed

    Seal, J N; Schiøtt, M; Mueller, U G

    2014-07-15

    Fungus-gardening insects are among the most complex organisms because of their extensive co-evolutionary histories with obligate fungal symbionts and other microbes. Some fungus-gardening insect lineages share fungal symbionts with other members of their lineage and thus exhibit diffuse co-evolutionary relationships, while others exhibit little or no symbiont sharing, resulting in host-fungus fidelity. The mechanisms that maintain this symbiont fidelity are currently unknown. Prior work suggested that derived leaf-cutting ants in the genus Atta interact synergistically with leaf-cutter fungi (Attamyces) by exhibiting higher fungal growth rates and enzymatic activities than when growing a fungus from the sister-clade to Attamyces (so-called 'Trachymyces'), grown primarily by the non-leaf cutting Trachymyrmex ants that form, correspondingly, the sister-clade to leaf-cutting ants. To elucidate the enzymatic bases of host-fungus specialization in leaf-cutting ants, we conducted a reciprocal fungus-switch experiment between the ant Atta texana and the ant Trachymyrmex arizonensis and report measured enzymatic activities of switched and sham-switched fungus gardens to digest starch, pectin, xylan, cellulose and casein. Gardens exhibited higher amylase and pectinase activities when A. texana ants cultivated Attamyces compared with Trachymyces fungi, consistent with enzymatic specialization. In contrast, gardens showed comparable amylase and pectinase activities when T. arizonensis cultivated either fungal species. Although gardens of leaf-cutting ants are not known to be significant metabolizers of cellulose, T. arizonensis were able to maintain gardens with significant cellulase activity when growing either fungal species. In contrast to carbohydrate metabolism, protease activity was significantly higher in Attamyces than in Trachymyces, regardless of the ant host. Activity of some enzymes employed by this symbiosis therefore arises from complex interactions between the

  10. The Genome Sequence of the Leaf-Cutter Ant Atta cephalotes Reveals Insights into Its Obligate Symbiotic Lifestyle

    PubMed Central

    Suen, Garret; Holt, Carson; Abouheif, Ehab; Bornberg-Bauer, Erich; Bouffard, Pascal; Caldera, Eric J.; Cash, Elizabeth; Cavanaugh, Amy; Denas, Olgert; Elhaik, Eran; Favé, Marie-Julie; Gadau, Jürgen; Gibson, Joshua D.; Graur, Dan; Grubbs, Kirk J.; Hagen, Darren E.; Harkins, Timothy T.; Helmkampf, Martin; Hu, Hao; Johnson, Brian R.; Kim, Jay; Marsh, Sarah E.; Moeller, Joseph A.; Muñoz-Torres, Mónica C.; Murphy, Marguerite C.; Naughton, Meredith C.; Nigam, Surabhi; Overson, Rick; Rajakumar, Rajendhran; Reese, Justin T.; Scott, Jarrod J.; Smith, Chris R.; Tao, Shu; Tsutsui, Neil D.; Viljakainen, Lumi; Wissler, Lothar; Yandell, Mark D.; Zimmer, Fabian; Taylor, James; Slater, Steven C.; Clifton, Sandra W.; Warren, Wesley C.; Elsik, Christine G.; Smith, Christopher D.; Weinstock, George M.; Gerardo, Nicole M.; Currie, Cameron R.

    2011-01-01

    Leaf-cutter ants are one of the most important herbivorous insects in the Neotropics, harvesting vast quantities of fresh leaf material. The ants use leaves to cultivate a fungus that serves as the colony's primary food source. This obligate ant-fungus mutualism is one of the few occurrences of farming by non-humans and likely facilitated the formation of their massive colonies. Mature leaf-cutter ant colonies contain millions of workers ranging in size from small garden tenders to large soldiers, resulting in one of the most complex polymorphic caste systems within ants. To begin uncovering the genomic underpinnings of this system, we sequenced the genome of Atta cephalotes using 454 pyrosequencing. One prediction from this ant's lifestyle is that it has undergone genetic modifications that reflect its obligate dependence on the fungus for nutrients. Analysis of this genome sequence is consistent with this hypothesis, as we find evidence for reductions in genes related to nutrient acquisition. These include extensive reductions in serine proteases (which are likely unnecessary because proteolysis is not a primary mechanism used to process nutrients obtained from the fungus), a loss of genes involved in arginine biosynthesis (suggesting that this amino acid is obtained from the fungus), and the absence of a hexamerin (which sequesters amino acids during larval development in other insects). Following recent reports of genome sequences from other insects that engage in symbioses with beneficial microbes, the A. cephalotes genome provides new insights into the symbiotic lifestyle of this ant and advances our understanding of host–microbe symbioses. PMID:21347285

  11. The genome sequence of the leaf-cutter ant Atta cephalotes reveals insights into its obligate symbiotic lifestyle.

    PubMed

    Suen, Garret; Teiling, Clotilde; Li, Lewyn; Holt, Carson; Abouheif, Ehab; Bornberg-Bauer, Erich; Bouffard, Pascal; Caldera, Eric J; Cash, Elizabeth; Cavanaugh, Amy; Denas, Olgert; Elhaik, Eran; Favé, Marie-Julie; Gadau, Jürgen; Gibson, Joshua D; Graur, Dan; Grubbs, Kirk J; Hagen, Darren E; Harkins, Timothy T; Helmkampf, Martin; Hu, Hao; Johnson, Brian R; Kim, Jay; Marsh, Sarah E; Moeller, Joseph A; Muñoz-Torres, Mónica C; Murphy, Marguerite C; Naughton, Meredith C; Nigam, Surabhi; Overson, Rick; Rajakumar, Rajendhran; Reese, Justin T; Scott, Jarrod J; Smith, Chris R; Tao, Shu; Tsutsui, Neil D; Viljakainen, Lumi; Wissler, Lothar; Yandell, Mark D; Zimmer, Fabian; Taylor, James; Slater, Steven C; Clifton, Sandra W; Warren, Wesley C; Elsik, Christine G; Smith, Christopher D; Weinstock, George M; Gerardo, Nicole M; Currie, Cameron R

    2011-02-10

    Leaf-cutter ants are one of the most important herbivorous insects in the Neotropics, harvesting vast quantities of fresh leaf material. The ants use leaves to cultivate a fungus that serves as the colony's primary food source. This obligate ant-fungus mutualism is one of the few occurrences of farming by non-humans and likely facilitated the formation of their massive colonies. Mature leaf-cutter ant colonies contain millions of workers ranging in size from small garden tenders to large soldiers, resulting in one of the most complex polymorphic caste systems within ants. To begin uncovering the genomic underpinnings of this system, we sequenced the genome of Atta cephalotes using 454 pyrosequencing. One prediction from this ant's lifestyle is that it has undergone genetic modifications that reflect its obligate dependence on the fungus for nutrients. Analysis of this genome sequence is consistent with this hypothesis, as we find evidence for reductions in genes related to nutrient acquisition. These include extensive reductions in serine proteases (which are likely unnecessary because proteolysis is not a primary mechanism used to process nutrients obtained from the fungus), a loss of genes involved in arginine biosynthesis (suggesting that this amino acid is obtained from the fungus), and the absence of a hexamerin (which sequesters amino acids during larval development in other insects). Following recent reports of genome sequences from other insects that engage in symbioses with beneficial microbes, the A. cephalotes genome provides new insights into the symbiotic lifestyle of this ant and advances our understanding of host-microbe symbioses.

  12. Survival of Atta sexdens workers on different food sources.

    PubMed

    Silva, Aline; Bacci, Maurício; Gomes de Siqueira, Célia; Correa Bueno, Odair; Pagnocca, Fernando Carlos; Aparecida Hebling, Maria José

    2003-04-01

    Leaf-cutting ants belonging to the tribe Attini are major herbivores and important agriculture pests in the neotropics, these ants being thought to feed on the sap which exudes from the plant material which they cut and also on the mycelium of a symbiotic fungus that grows on plant material inside their nests in what is called "the fungus garden". However, we have found that the survival of Atta sexdens worker ants on leaves, on mycelium of the ants' symbiotic fungus, Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, or on plant polysaccharides was the same as that of starved A. sexdens, while, conversely, significantly longer survival was achieved by ants fed on the fungus garden material or on some of the products (especially glucose) of the hydrolysis of plant polysaccharides. We found that the fungus garden contained glucose at a higher concentration than that found in leaves or fungal mycelium, and that this glucose was consumed by the ant to the extent that it was probably responsible for up to 50% of the nutritional needs of the workers. The fungus garden contained polysaccharide degrading enzymes (pectinase, amylase, xylanase and cellulase) in proportions similar to that observed in laboratory cultures of L. gongylophorus. It thus appears that A. sexdens workers obtain a significant part of their nutrients from plant polysaccharide hydrolysis products produced by the action of extracellular enzymes released by L. gongylophorus. In this paper we discuss the symbiotic nutrition strategy of A. sexdens workers and brood and the role played by plant polysaccharides in the nutrition of attine ants.

  13. Allogrooming, Self-Grooming, and Touching Behavior: Contamination Routes of Leaf-Cutting Ant Workers Using a Fat-Soluble Tracer Dye

    PubMed Central

    Camargo, Roberto da Silva; Puccini, Carolina; Forti, Luiz Carlos; de Matos, Carlos Alberto Oliveira

    2017-01-01

    The aim of this study was to determine whether worker self-grooming, allogrooming, and direct contact promotes the dispersal of substances among members of the colony. For this purpose, a tracer (Sudan III dye) was applied topically to a worker ant and the social interactions between the worker with the tracer and workers without the tracer were studied. Additionally, the worker heads were dissected to visualize whether or not the post-pharyngeal gland was stained. The post-pharyngeal glands from 50% to 70% of workers were stained depending on the size of the group. With the increase in the experimental group size, the frequency of interactions between workers increased, with touching being the most frequent behavior. The tracer dye was probably passed on by direct contact between workers, followed by self-grooming and allogrooming. These behaviors are responsible for the rapid dispersal of substances among colony members as observed in our experiment. The results therefore support the hypothesis that contact with substances promotes the contamination of nestmates, even in the absence of feeding, serving as a model for further studies on the contamination of workers with the active ingredients of insecticides. PMID:28598375

  14. 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

  15. The mitochondrial genome of the leaf-cutter ant Atta laevigata: a mitogenome with a large number of intergenic spacers.

    PubMed

    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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. Comparative physical mapping of 18S rDNA in the karyotypes of six leafcutter ant species of the genera Atta and Acromyrmex (Formicidae: Myrmicinae).

    PubMed

    Teixeira, Gisele Amaro; Barros, Luísa Antônia Campos; de Aguiar, Hilton Jeferson Alves Cardoso; das Graças Pompolo, Silvia

    2017-06-16

    Leafcutter ants of the Atta and Acromyrmex genera are important plagues in different cultures. Cytogenetic data on chromosome number, morphology, and chromosomal banding pattern are only available for 17 species of leafcutter ants. Molecular cytogenetic data for the detection of ribosomal genes by the FISH technique are scarce, and only 15 Neotropical ant species have been studied. This study aimed to physically map the 18S ribosomal RNA genes (rDNA) of six leafcutter ants belonging to the genera Atta and Acromyrmex using FISH. The results were compared with data on the fluorochrome CMA3 currently available for these species. All analyzed species presented the 18S rDNA on one pair of chromosomes. In Acromyrmex subterraneus molestans and Ac. aspersus, FISH signals were observed in the terminal region of the short arm of the largest subtelocentric pair, while in Atta bisphaerica, A. laevigata, and A. sexdens, FISH signals were observed in the interstitial region of the long arm of the fourth metacentric pair. In Acromyrmex striatus, 18S rDNA was located in the interstitial region of the second metacentric pair. The karyotypic formula for Ac. aspersus was 2n = 38 (8m + 10sm + 16st + 4a), representing the first report in this species. The observed 18S rDNA regions in A. laevigata, A. sexdens, A. bisphaerica, Ac. aspersus, and Ac. subterraneus molestans corresponded to the CMA3(+) bands, while in Ac. striatus, several GC-rich bands and one pair of 18S rDNA bands were observed. No differential bands were visible using the DAPI fluorochrome. Karyotype uniformity with previously studied Atta spp. was also observed at the level of molecular cytogenetics using 18S rDNA FISH. A difference in the size of the chromosomal pair carrying the 18S rDNA gene was observed in Ac. striatus (2n = 22) and Atta spp. (2n = 22) highlighting the dissimilarity between these species. The results from the present study contribute to the description of 18S rDNA clusters in

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. Alarm Pheromone Composition and Behavioral Activity in Fungus-Growing Ants.

    PubMed

    Norman, Victoria C; Butterfield, Thomas; Drijfhout, Falko; Tasman, Kiah; Hughes, William O H

    2017-03-01

    Chemical communication is a dominant method of communication throughout the animal kingdom and can be especially important in group-living animals in which communicating threats, either from predation or other dangers, can have large impacts on group survival. Social insects, in particular, have evolved a number of pheromonal compounds specifically to signal alarm. There is predicted to be little selection for interspecific variation in alarm cues because individuals may benefit from recognizing interspecific as well as conspecific cues and, consequently, alarm cues are not normally thought to be used for species or nestmate recognition. Here, we examine the composition of the alarm pheromones of seven species of fungus-growing ants (Attini), including both basal and derived species and examine the behavioral responses to alarm pheromone of Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants, the sister genus to the highly studied Atta leaf-cutting ants. We find surprisingly high interspecific variation in alarm pheromone composition across the attine phylogeny. Interestingly, the active component of the alarm pheromone was different between the two leaf-cutting ant genera. Furthermore, in contrast to previous studies on Atta, we found no differences among morphological castes in their responses to alarm pheromone in Acromyrmex but we did find differences in responses among putative age classes. The results suggest that the evolution of alarm communication and signaling within social insect clades can be unexpectedly complex and that further work is warranted to understand whether the evolution of different alarm pheromone compounds is adaptive.

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  4. Leaf Cutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) Soil Modification and In Situ CO2 Gas Dynamics in a Neotropical Wet Forest

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Fernandez Bou, A. S.; Carrasquillo Quintana, O.; Dierick, D.; Harmon, T. C.; Johnson, S.; Schwendenmann, L.; Zelikova, T. J.

    2016-12-01

    The goal of this work is to advance our understanding of soil carbon cycling in highly productive neotropical wet forests. More specifically, we are investigating the influence of leaf cutter ants (LCA) on soil CO2 gas dynamics in primary and secondary forest soils at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. LCA are the dominant herbivore in tropical Americas, responsible for as much as 50% of the total herbivory. Their presence is increasing and their range is expanding because of forest fragmentation and other human impacts. We installed gas sampling wells in LCA (Atta cephalotes) nest and control sites (non-nests in the same soil and forest settings). The experimental design encompassed land cover (primary and secondary forest) and soil type (residual and alluvial). We collected gas samples monthly over an 18-month period. Several of the LCA nests were abandoned during this period. Nevertheless, we continued to sample these sites for LCA legacy effects. In several of the sites, we also installed sensors to continuously monitor soil moisture content, temperature, and CO2 levels. Within the 18-month period we conducted a 2-month field campaign to collect soil and nest vent CO2 efflux data from 3 of the nest-control pairs. Integrating the various data sets, we observed that for most of the sites nest and control soils behaved similarly during the tropical dry season. However, during the wet season gas well CO2 concentrations increased in the control sites while levels in the nests remained at dry season levels. This outcome suggests that ants modify soil gas transport properties (e.g., tortuosity). In situ time series and efflux sampling campaign data corroborated these findings. Abandoned nest CO2 levels were similar to those of the active nests, supporting the notion of a legacy effect from LCA manipulations. For this work, the period of abandonment was relatively short (several months to 1 year maximum), which appears to be insufficient for estimating the

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. Sublethal doses of fipronil intensify synapsin immunostaining in Atta sexdens rubropilosa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) brains.

    PubMed

    Cintra-Socolowski, Priscila; Roat, Thaisa C; Nocelli, Roberta C F; Nunes, Pablo H; Ferreira, Rafael A C; Malaspina, Osmar; Bueno, Odair C

    2016-05-01

    Although ants are common insects in agricultural ecosystems, few studies have considered how xenobiotics might induce physiological and morphological alterations in these insects. This study aimed to verify the neurotoxic action of sublethal doses of fipronil on the mushroom bodies of brains from the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa through immunocytochemistry analysis for the protein synapsin. The LD50 value was established as 1.42 ng ant(-1), and the sublethal doses used were LD50/10 and LD50/100. Synapsin labelling was more evident in the brains extracted from ants exposed to the insecticide, specifically in the regions of glia in the mushroom bodies, compared with the control group. It was possible to measure the intensity of emitted fluorescence in the areas of the mushroom bodies, and a statistical test showed differences between the control group and the treatment group. Thus, it is concluded that sublethal doses of the insecticide fipronil intensified synapsin immunostaining, suggesting an increased release of neurotransmitters, which may be linked to neurotoxicity and overexcitation. These sublethal doses may have two different effects: compromising the operation and maintenance of the colony and leading to the establishment of resistance in insects. © 2015 Society of Chemical Industry.

  10. Putting the waste out: a proposed mechanism for transmission of the mycoparasite Escovopsis between leafcutter ant colonies

    PubMed Central

    Augustin, Juliana O.; Simões, Talitta G.; Dijksterhuis, Jan; Evans, Harry C.

    2017-01-01

    The attine ant system is a remarkable example of symbiosis. An antagonistic partner within this system is the fungal parasite Escovopsis, a genus specific to the fungal gardens of the Attini. Escovopsis parasitizes the Leucoagaricus symbiont that leaf-cutting ants (Acromyrmex, Atta) have been farming over the past 8–12 Myr. However, it has been a puzzle how Escovopsis reaches its host. During a seasonal survey of nests of Acromyrmex subterraneus subterraneus in Atlantic rainforest in Brazil, Escovopsis was detected in all the sampled fungal garden waste tips or middens (n = 111). Middens were built strategically; always below the nest entrances. Here, we report the first evidence of a putative mechanism for horizontal transmission of Escovopsis between attine colonies. It is posited that leaf-cutting ants pick up the spores from soil and litter during foraging and vector the mycoparasite between attine colonies. Field and laboratory experiments, using At. laevigata and Ac. subterraneus subterraneus, confirm that Escovopsis spores are phoretic, and have an inbuilt dormancy, broken by the presence of their Leucoagaricus host. However, in the coevolutionary arms race, Atta ants may lose out—despite most species in the genus investing in a more advanced waste disposal system—due to the insanitary habits of their Acromyrmex neighbours. PMID:28572992

  11. Isolation of xanthyletin, an inhibitor of ants' symbiotic fungus, by high-speed counter-current chromatography.

    PubMed

    Cazal, Cristiane de Melo; Domingues, Vanessa de Cássia; Batalhão, Jaqueline Raquel; Bueno, Odair Corrêa; Filho, Edson Rodrigues; da Silva, Maria Fátima G Fernandes; Vieira, Paulo Cezar; Fernandes, João Batista

    2009-05-08

    Xanthyletin, an inhibitor of symbiotic fungus (Leucoagaricus gongylophorus) of leaf-cutting ant (Atta sexdens rubropilosa), as well as suberosin, seselin and xanthoxyletin were isolated from Citrus sinensis grafted on Citrus limonia. A two-phase solvent system composed of hexane/ethanol/acetonitrile/water (10:8:1:1, v/v) was used for the high-speed counter-current chromatographic isolation of xanthyletin with high yield and over 99% purity as determined by liquid and gas chromatography with mass spectrometry detection. Identifications were performed by UV spectra, IR spectra, (1)H NMR and (13)C NMR.

  12. Effects of substrate, ant and fungal species on plant fiber degradation in a fungus-gardening ant symbiosis.

    PubMed

    DeMilto, Alexandria M; Rouquette, Monte; Mueller, Ulrich G; Kellner, Katrin; Seal, Jon N

    2017-02-11

    Fungus-gardening or attine ants have outsourced most of their digestive function to a symbiotic fungus. The ants feed their fungus - essentially an external digestive organ - a variety of substrates of botanical origin, including fresh and dried flowers, leaves and insect frass (processed leaves). Although plant tissues are rich in fibers (lignocelluloses, hemicelluloses, pectins and starches) and the symbiotic fungus possesses the genetic and enzymatic machinery to metabolize these compounds, the highly derived attines, the leaf-cutters (Atta and Acromyrmex), are known to produce fiber-rich waste. While leaf-cutting ants are important consumers of primary plant tissue, there have been fewer studies on physiological activity of fungi grown by closely related ant species in the genus Trachymyrmex, which generally grow related species of fungi, have smaller colonies and consume a wider variety of fungal substrates in addition to fresh leaves and flowers. In this study, we measured the cellulase activity of the fungus-gardening ants Atta texana, Trachymyrmex arizonensis and T. septentrionalis. We then quantified fiber consumption of the fungus-gardening ants Trachymyrmex septentrionalis and Trachymyrmex arizonensis by comparing the amounts and percentages present in their food and in fungus garden refuse during a controlled feeding experiment over the span of several months. Finally, we compared waste composition of T. arizonensis colonies growing different fungal strains, because this species is known to cultivate multiple strains of Leucoagaricus in its native range. The leaf-cutting ant A. texana was found to have lower cellulytic activity than T. arizonensis or T. septentrionalis. Total lignocellulose and hemicellulose amounts were significantly lower in refuse piles than in the substrates fed to the Trachymyrmex colonies, thus these fibers were consumed by the fungal symbionts of these ant species. Although lignocellulose utilization was similar in two distinct

  13. Chemical composition of metapleural gland secretions of fungus-growing and non-fungus-growing ants.

    PubMed

    Vieira, Alexsandro S; Morgan, E David; Drijfhout, Falko P; Camargo-Mathias, Maria I

    2012-10-01

    The metapleural gland is exclusive to ants, and unusual among exocrine glands in having no mechanism for closure and retention of secretion. As yet, no clear conclusion has been reached as to the function of metapleural gland secretion. Metapleural gland secretions were investigated for fungus-growing ants representing the derived attines Trachymyrmex fuscus, Atta laevigata, and Acromyrmex coronatus, the basal attines Apterostigma pilosum and Mycetarotes parallelus, and non-fungus-growing ants of the tribes Ectatommini (Ectatomma brunneum) and Myrmicini (Pogonomyrmex naegeli). Our results showed that the secretions of leaf-cutting ants (A. laevigata and A. coronatus) and the derived attine, T. fuscus, contain a greater variety and larger quantities of volatile compounds than those of myrmicine and ectatommine ants. The most abundant compounds found in the metapleural glands of A. laevigata and A. coronatus were hydroxyacids, and phenylacetic acid (only in A. laevigata). Indole was present in all groups examined, while skatole was found in large quantities only in attines. Ketones and aldehydes are present in the secretion of some attines. Esters are present in the metapleural gland secretion of all species examined, although mainly in A. laevigata, A. coronatus, and T. fuscus. Compared with basal attines and non-fungus-growing ants, the metapleural glands of leaf-cutting ants produce more acidic compounds that may have an antibiotic or antifungal function.

  14. 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.

  15. 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

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

    SciTech Connect

    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 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 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.

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

    DOE PAGES

    Lewin, Gina R.; Johnson, Amanda L.; Soto, Rolando D. Moreira; ...

    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

  18. Mating activities of Atta texana (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)

    Treesearch

    John C. Moser

    1967-01-01

    The town ant, Atta texana (Buckley) is the northernmost representative of the most specialized genus of Attini, a New World tribe of fungus-growing myrmicine ants. Colonies are found in central Louisiana; easter, central and southern Texas; and eastern Mexico as far south as Vera Cruz. They are restricted to sandy soils and are usually located on...

  19. The evolution of multiple mating in army ants.

    PubMed

    Kronauer, Daniel J C; Johnson, Robert A; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2007-02-01

    The evolution of mating systems in eusocial Hymenoptera is constrained because females mate only during a brief period early in life, whereas inseminated queens and their stored sperm may live for decades. Considerable research effort during recent years has firmly established that obligate multiple mating has evolved only a few times: in Apis honeybees, Vespula wasps, Pogonomyrmex harvester ants, Atta and Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants, the ant Cataglyphis cursor, and in at least some army ants. Here we provide estimates of queen-mating frequency for New World Neivamyrmex and Old World Aenictus species, which, compared to other army ants, have relatively small colonies and little size polymorphism among workers. To provide the first overall comparative analysis of the evolution of army ant mating systems, we combine these new results with previous estimates for African Dorylus and New World Eciton army ants, which have very large colonies and considerable worker polymorphism. We show that queens of Neivamyrmex and Aenictus mate with the same high numbers of males (usually ca. 10-20) as do queens of army ant species with very large colony sizes. We infer that multiple queen mating is ancestral in army ants and has evolved over 100 million years ago as part of the army ant adaptive syndrome. A comparison of army ants and honeybees suggests that mating systems in these two distantly related groups may have been convergently shaped by strikingly similar selective pressures.

  20. 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.

  1. Integrated In Situ Sensing and Modeling to Assess Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Tropical Wet Forest Soils: The Role of Leaf Cutter Ant Atta Cepholotes

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Harmon, T. C.; Fernandez Bou, A. S.; Dierick, D.; Oberbauer, S. F.; Schwendenmann, L.; Swanson, A. C.; Zelikova, T. J.

    2016-12-01

    This project focuses on the role of leaf cutter ants (LCA) Atta cepholotes in carbon cycling in neotropical wet forests. LCA are abundant in these forests and workers cut and carry vegetation fragments to their nests, where symbiotic fungi break down the plant material and produce the fungal hyphae on which the ants feed. LCA are the dominant herbivores in tropical forest ecosystems, removing 10-50% of vegetation annually. Their nests can achieve large sizes, extending several meters belowground and covering 50 square meters or more of the forest floor. We monitored soil moisture, temperature, and soil CO2 concentrations continuously in nest and control sites at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. Intermittently, we also assessed soil respiration and LCA nest vent fluxes. Observed soil CO2 concentrations varied markedly with soil moisture conditions, ranging from a few thousand to over 60,000 ppm(v). Accordingly, soil CO2 surface efflux varied temporally by an order of magnitude or more (typical range 0.5 to 5 mmol CO2 m-2 s-1) for the same location as a consequence of soil moisture fluctuations. LCA nest vents equivalent CO2 efflux rates (accounting for vent diameter) can be substantially greater than soil surface values, with observed values ranging from about 1 to 50 mmol m-2 s-1 (it is worth noting that correcting for vent diameters yields equivalent CO2 efflux rates greater than 1000 mmol m-2 s-1). Similar to the soil surface efflux, vent efflux varied temporally by factors of 3 or more, suggesting a potential link between the vent productivity and nest activity, moisture content of surrounding soil, and atmospheric conditions (e.g., air temperature, wind). Using a soil model (Hydrus-1D) to account for unsaturated flow, heat transfer, CO2 production and diffusive transport, we captured moisture and temperature dynamics and the order of magnitude of observed CO2 concentration. Modelled surface fluxes also agreed well with observed soil surface CO2 efflux

  2. 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.

  3. Coffee farm diversity and landscape features influence density of colonies of Atta cephalotes (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Varón, Edgar; Eigenbrode, Sanford D; Bosque-Pérez, Nilsa A; Hilje, Luko; Jones, Jeffrey

    2011-02-01

    The density of colonies of leaf-cutting ants, Atta cephalotes L. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), was measured and compared among coffee (Coffea arabica L.) plantations in five management categories: monoculture conventional, diversified conventional, diversified organic, highly diversified conventional, and highly diversified organic. Twenty-four small farms (<4 ha) in Turrialba, Costa Rica, were included in this study. Within-farm and off-farm (landscape) variables were measured and tested for their relationship with A. cephalotes colony density. Total ant colony density (colonies per ha) and density of new colonies shortly after a nuptial flight were significantly greater in the coffee monoculture conventional system, compared with all other systems. Total ant colony density and density of new colonies were inversely related to percentage of shade within the farms. Within farms, colony density was greater near edges adjacent to riparian forest than those adjacent to nonforested land. Regardless of edge type, plots closer to the edge (0-30 m) had greater colony density than those furthest from the edge. At the landscape scale, density of new colonies was positively related to fallow land use coverage within a 2,000-m buffer radius and to forest coverage within a 500-m radius. Results indicate that coffee farm management practices and landscape level factors can affect A. cephalotes colony densities. Understanding such practices and factors could assist in the development of better management methods of these injurious insects in coffee farms. Increased diversification in coffee farms, possibly due to the greater shade associated with it, may reduce colonization by the ants, which are considered forest gap specialists.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Presence of multiparasite infections within individual colonies of leaf-cutter ants.

    PubMed

    Taerum, S J; Cafaro, M J; Currie, C R

    2010-02-01

    Host-parasite dynamics can be altered when a host is infected by multiple parasite genotypes. The different strains of parasite are expected to compete for the limited host resources, potentially affecting the survival and reproduction of the host as well as the infecting parasites. Fungus-growing ants, including the well-known leaf-cutters, are an emerging model system for studying the evolution and ecology of symbiosis and host-parasite dynamics. We examine whether the fungus gardens of leaf-cutter ants can be simultaneously infected by multiple strains of the fungal pathogen Escovopsis. Intensive sampling of Escovopsis was conducted from individual gardens, as well as between different garden chambers within individual colonies of leaf-cutting ants. Isolates obtained were genotyped by DNA sequencing. We found that, minimally, 67% of the individual colonies of the leaf-cutter ant genera Atta and Acromyrmex and 50% of the At. colombica garden chambers studied were simultaneously infected by multiple distinct Escovopsis strains. Experimental challenges showed that different Escovopsis strains do not exhibit obvious antagonism toward each other, suggesting that coinfecting strains of the parasite do not engage in interference competition, although interactions were not studied at the cellular level. Further research is needed to understand interparasite interactions between coinfecting Escovopsis strains and to understand the impact of multiparasite infections on the survival of leaf-cutter ant gardens.

  7. Fluid intake rates in ants correlate with their feeding habits.

    PubMed

    Paul, J; Roces, F

    2003-04-01

    This study investigates the techniques of nectar feeding in 11 different ant species, and quantitatively compares fluid intake rates over a wide range of nectar concentrations in four species that largely differ in their feeding habits. Ants were observed to employ two different techniques for liquid food intake, in which the glossa works either as a passive duct-like structure (sucking), or as an up- and downwards moving shovel (licking). The technique employed for collecting fluids at ad libitum food sources was observed to be species-specific and to correlate with the presence or absence of a well-developed crop in the species under scrutiny. Workers of ponerine ants licked fluid food during foraging and transported it as a droplet between their mandibles, whereas workers of species belonging to phylogenetically more advanced subfamilies, with a crop capable of storing liquids, sucked the fluid food, such as formicine ants of the genus Camponotus. In order to evaluate the performance of fluid collection during foraging, intake rates for sucrose solutions of different concentrations were measured in four ant species that differ in their foraging ecology. Scaling functions between fluid intake rates and ant size were first established for the polymorphic species, so as to compare ants of different size across species. Results showed that fluid intake rate depended, as expected and previously reported in the literature, on sugar concentration and the associated fluid viscosity. It also depended on both the species-specific feeding technique and the extent of specialization on foraging on liquid food. For similarly-sized ants, workers of two nectar-feeding ant species, Camponotus rufipes (Formicinae) and Pachycondyla villosa (Ponerinae), collected fluids with the highest intake rates, while workers of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens (Myrmicinae) and a predatory ant from the Rhytidoponera impressa-complex (Ponerinae) did so with the lowest rate. Calculating the

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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 ...

  9. 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.

  10. Pathogenic nature of Syncephalastrum in Atta sexdens rubropilosa fungus gardens.

    PubMed

    Barcoto, Mariana O; Pedrosa, Felipe; Bueno, Odair C; Rodrigues, Andre

    2017-05-01

    Leaf-cutter ants are considered to be a major herbivore and agricultural pest in the Neotropics. They are often controlled by environmentally persistent insecticides. Biological control using pathogenic fungi is regarded as an alternative for the management of these insects. Here, we assess whether the filamentous fungus Syncephalastrum sp. is a pathogenic microorganism responsible for a characteristic disease in fungus gardens. We also characterise the damage caused by this fungus by evaluating physiological and behavioural responses of Atta sexdens rubropilosa subcolonies infected with Syncephalastrum sp. Syncephalastrum sp. fulfils Koch's postulates characterising it as a pathogenic microorganism. Ant workers recognise the infection and remove contaminated fragments from the fungus garden. Syncephalastrum sp. infection causes an interruption of foraging activity, an increase in ant mortality, subcolony deterioration and an increase in the amount of waste generated, all resulting in subcolony death. Syncephalastrum sp. also inhibits the ant fungal cultivar in vitro. The pathogenic effect of Syncephalastrum sp. does not depend on host morbidity or stress (e.g. worker mortality caused by an entomopathogenic fungus). Syncephalastrum sp. treatment resulted in progressive damage in subcolonies. The interactions among Syncephalastrum sp., fungus garden and ants offer new opportunities in integrated pest management of leaf-cutter ants. © 2016 Society of Chemical Industry. © 2016 Society of Chemical Industry.

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Morphophysiological Differences between the Metapleural Glands of Fungus-Growing and Non–Fungus-Growing Ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)

    PubMed Central

    Vieira, Alexsandro Santana; Bueno, Odair Correa; Camargo-Mathias, Maria Izabel

    2012-01-01

    The metapleural gland is an organ exclusive to ants. Its main role is to produce secretions that inhibit the proliferation of different types of pathogens. The aim of the present study was to examine the morphophysiological differences between the metapleural gland of 3 non–fungus-growing ants of the tribes Ectatommini, Myrmicini, and Blepharidattini and that of 5 fungus-growing ants from 2 basal and 3 derived attine genera. The metapleural gland of the non–fungus-growing ants and the basal attine ants has fewer secretory cells than that of the derived attine ants (leaf-cutting ants). In addition, the metapleural gland of the latter had more clusters of secretory cells and sieve plates, indicating a greater storage capacity and demand for secretion in these more advanced farming ants. The glands of the derived attine ants also produced higher levels of polysaccharides and acidic lipids than those of Myrmicini, Blepharidattini, and basal attines. Our results confirm morphophysiological differences between the metapleural glands of the derived attines and those of the basal attines and non–fungus-growing ants, suggesting that the metapleural glands of the derived attines (leaf-cutting ants) are more developed in morphology and physiology, with enhanced secretion production (acidic lipids and protein) to protect against the proliferation of unwanted fungi and bacteria in the fungal garden, it is possible that leaf-cutting ants may have evolved more developed metapleural glands in response to stronger pressure from parasites. PMID:22927993

  16. Morphophysiological differences between the metapleural glands of fungus-growing and non-fungus-growing ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Vieira, Alexsandro Santana; Bueno, Odair Correa; Camargo-Mathias, Maria Izabel

    2012-01-01

    The metapleural gland is an organ exclusive to ants. Its main role is to produce secretions that inhibit the proliferation of different types of pathogens. The aim of the present study was to examine the morphophysiological differences between the metapleural gland of 3 non-fungus-growing ants of the tribes Ectatommini, Myrmicini, and Blepharidattini and that of 5 fungus-growing ants from 2 basal and 3 derived attine genera. The metapleural gland of the non-fungus-growing ants and the basal attine ants has fewer secretory cells than that of the derived attine ants (leaf-cutting ants). In addition, the metapleural gland of the latter had more clusters of secretory cells and sieve plates, indicating a greater storage capacity and demand for secretion in these more advanced farming ants. The glands of the derived attine ants also produced higher levels of polysaccharides and acidic lipids than those of Myrmicini, Blepharidattini, and basal attines. Our results confirm morphophysiological differences between the metapleural glands of the derived attines and those of the basal attines and non-fungus-growing ants, suggesting that the metapleural glands of the derived attines (leaf-cutting ants) are more developed in morphology and physiology, with enhanced secretion production (acidic lipids and protein) to protect against the proliferation of unwanted fungi and bacteria in the fungal garden, it is possible that leaf-cutting ants may have evolved more developed metapleural glands in response to stronger pressure from parasites.

  17. 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

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  19. Town ants: the beginning of John Moser’s remarkable search for knowledge

    Treesearch

    J.P. Barnett; D.A. Streett; S.R. Blomquist

    2016-01-01

    John C. Moser’s career spans over 50 years, and his research has focused on understanding the biology of town ants (Atta texana) and phoretic mites and other associates of ants and pine bark beetles. His approach to developing methods for the control of these pests has been to understand more completely the biology of these organisms. This research...

  20. Complete excavation and mapping of a Texas leafcutting ant nest

    Treesearch

    John C. Moser

    2006-01-01

    A medium-sized nest of the Texas leafcutting ant, Atta texana (Buckley), in northern Louisiana was excavated completely, and a three-dimensional model of its external and subterranean features was constructed. In total, 97 fungus gardens, 27 dormancy cavities, and 45 detritus cavities were located. At the lower center of the funnel-shaped nest was a...

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    : 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. Toxicological and histopathological effects of boric acid on Atta sexdens rubropilosa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) workers.

    PubMed

    Sumida, Simone; Silva-Zacarin, Elaine C M; Decio, Pâmela; Malaspina, Osmar; Bueno, Fabiana C; Bueno, Odair C

    2010-06-01

    The current study compared the toxicity of different concentrations of boric acid in adult workers of Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), with toxicological bioassays, and examining the dose-dependent and time-dependent histopathological changes, of the midgut, Malpighian tubules, and postpharyngeal glands. Our results revealed the importance of conducting toxicological bioassays combined with morphological analyses of the organs of ants chronically exposed to insecticides used in commercial ant baits. In vitro bioassays showed that boric acid significantly decreases the survivorship of workers regardless of concentration, whereas the morphological data suggested progressive dose-dependent and time-dependent changes in the organs examined, which were evident in the midgut. The midgut is the first organ to be affected, followed by the postpharyngeal gland and Malpighian tubules. This sequence is in agreement with the absorption pathway of this chemical compound in the midgut, its transference to the hemolymph, possibly reaching the postpharyngeal glands, and excretion by the Malpighian tubules. These progressive changes might be due to the cumulative and delayed effect of boric acid. Our findings provide important information for the understanding of the action of boric acid in ant baits in direct and indirect target organs.

  3. Complete Genome of Serratia sp. Strain FGI 94, a Strain Associated with Leaf-Cutter Ant Fungus Gardens.

    PubMed

    Aylward, Frank O; Tremmel, Daniel M; Starrett, Gabriel J; Bruce, David C; Chain, Patrick; Chen, Amy; Davenport, Karen W; Detter, Chris; Han, Cliff S; Han, James; Huntemann, Marcel; Ivanova, Natalia N; Kyrpides, Nikos C; Markowitz, Victor; Mavrommatis, Kostas; Nolan, Matt; Pagani, Ioanna; Pati, Amrita; Pitluck, Sam; Teshima, Hazuki; Deshpande, Shweta; Goodwin, Lynne; Woyke, Tanja; Currie, Cameron R

    2013-03-14

    Serratia sp. strain FGI 94 was isolated from a fungus garden of the leaf-cutter ant Atta colombica. Analysis of its 4.86-Mbp chromosome will help advance our knowledge of symbiotic interactions and plant biomass degradation in this ancient ant-fungus mutualism.

  4. Complete Genome of Enterobacteriaceae Bacterium Strain FGI 57, a Strain Associated with Leaf-Cutter Ant Fungus Gardens.

    PubMed

    Aylward, Frank O; Tremmel, Daniel M; Bruce, David C; Chain, Patrick; Chen, Amy; Walston Davenport, Karen; Detter, Chris; Han, Cliff S; Han, James; Huntemann, Marcel; Ivanova, Natalia N; Kyrpides, Nikos C; Markowitz, Victor; Mavrommatis, Kostas; Nolan, Matt; Pagani, Ioanna; Pati, Amrita; Pitluck, Sam; Deshpande, Shweta; Goodwin, Lynne; Woyke, Tanja; Currie, Cameron R

    2013-01-01

    The Enterobacteriaceae bacterium strain FGI 57 was isolated from a fungus garden of the leaf-cutter ant Atta colombica. Analysis of its single 4.76-Mbp chromosome will shed light on community dynamics and plant biomass degradation in ant fungus gardens.

  5. Coevolution between attine ants and actinomycete bacteria: a reevaluation.

    PubMed

    Mueller, Ulrich G; Dash, Debadutta; Rabeling, Christian; Rodrigues, Andre

    2008-11-01

    We reassess the coevolution between actinomycete bacteria and fungus-gardening (attine) ants. Actinomycete bacteria are of special interest because they are metabolic mutualists of diverse organisms (e.g., in nitrogen-fixation or antibiotic production) and because Pseudonocardia actinomycetes are thought to serve disease-suppressing functions in attine gardens. Phylogenetic information from culture-dependent and culture-independent microbial surveys reveals (1) close affinities between free-living and ant-associated Pseudonocardia, and (2) essentially no topological correspondence between ant and Pseudonocardia phylogenies, indicating frequent bacterial acquisition from environmental sources. Identity of ant-associated Pseudonocardia and isolates from soil and plants implicates these environments as sources from which attine ants acquire Pseudonocardia. Close relatives of Atta leafcutter ants have abundant Pseudonocardia, but Pseudonocardia in Atta is rare and appears at the level of environmental contamination. In contrast, actinomycete bacteria in the genera Mycobacterium and Microbacterium can be readily isolated from gardens and starter-cultures of Atta. The accumulated phylogenetic evidence is inconsistent with prevailing views of specific coevolution between Pseudonocardia, attine ants, and garden diseases. Because of frequent acquisition, current models of Pseudonocardia-disease coevolution now need to be revised. The effectiveness of Pseudonocardia antibiotics may not derive from advantages in the coevolutionary arms race with specialized garden diseases, as currently believed, but from frequent recruitment of effective microbes from environmental sources. Indeed, the exposed integumental structures that support actinomycete growth on attine ants argue for a morphological design facilitating bacterial recruitment. We review the accumulated evidence that attine ants have undergone modifications in association with actinomycete bacteria, but we find

  6. 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.

  7. Contents and Structure Atta texana Nest in Summer

    Treesearch

    John C. Moser

    1963-01-01

    A large nest of Atta texana (Buckley) in central Louisiana was partially excavated in August 1960. Twelve dormancy, 5 detritus, and 93 fungus-garden cavities were found. Fungus-garden cavities near the surface outnumbered those at lower depths and contained most of the fungus material and brood. Inquilines were most numerous in detritus cavities....

  8. Optimization of hormone combinations for root growth and bud germination in Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) clone leaf cuttings.

    PubMed

    Li, Shubin; Huang, Peng; Ding, Guochang; Zhou, Lili; Tang, Piao; Sun, Min; Zheng, Yingying; Lin, Sizu

    2017-07-11

    In order to ascertain the optimal hormone combination for Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) leaf cuttings, an L16(4)(4) orthogonal test of 6-benzylaminopurine (6-BA), 1-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA), and indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) (0, 10, 30, or 50 mg · L(-1) of each exogenous hormone) immersion for 5, 10, 15, or 20 min was conducted. Callus initiation rate and rooting promotion rate were mainly affected by treatment time, root length increase by 6-BA concentration, and bud germination rate and plantlet formation rate by NAA concentration. The expected optimal combination for callus initiation rate was 50 mg · L(-1) 6-BA + 0 mg · L(-1) NAA + 30 mg · L(-1) IBA + 10 min; for rooting promotion rate, it was 0-10 mg · L(-1) 6-BA + 10 mg · L(-1) NAA + 30 mg · L(-1) IBA + 20 min; for bud germination rate, it was 50 mg · L(-1) 6-BA + 0-10 mg · L(-1) NAA + 0-30 mg · L(-1) IBA + 20 min; and for seedling formation rate for No. 4, it was 10 mg · L(-1) 6-BA + 10 mg · L(-1) NAA + 0 mg · L(-1) IBA + 20 min. Light microscopy image analysis revealed that a cluster of primordial cells was produced 40 days after cutting, and mastoid cells developed into peninsula cells in calli that were cultured for 50 days.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. [Ants: species-area relationship in tropical dry forest fragments].

    PubMed

    Lozano-Zambrano, Fabio H; Ulloa-Chacón, Patricia; Armbrecht, Inge

    2009-01-01

    We analyzed the effect of fragmentation on ant species-area and specimen frequency-area relationships in nine patches of tropical dry forest in the middle Cauca river basin in Colombia. Species richness and specimen relative frequency of ants were positively correlated with area, whereas no significant correlation was found between species richness and the degree of isolation calculated for the forest patches. As the fragmentation affects different functional groups in different ways, we analyzed the species-area relationship for separate functional groups of ants. According to the habitat requirements we found that the species richness increased faster as area increased for ants inhabiting decomposing wood, followed by ants associated with trees, while species richness of ants living under dead leaves did not correlate with area. According to the food preference, species richness was positively correlated with area for the army ant group, while no significant correlation was found for solitary hunters or for leaf-cutting ants. Ant species richness and specimen density were calculated from equal size samples and examined in relation to the habitat area. An inverse correlation was found only for specimen density, the opposite of what was expected. To our knowledge this is one of the first studies showing differential responses of functional groups of ants to habitat loss. Moreover, it emphasizes the conservation value of small forest fragments for ants in a tropical dry forest.

  13. Evolutionary transitions in enzyme activity of ant fungus gardens.

    PubMed

    De Fine Licht, Henrik H; Schiøtt, Morten; Mueller, Ulrich G; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2010-07-01

    Fungus-growing (attine) ants and their fungal symbionts passed through several evolutionary transitions during their 50 million year old evolutionary history. The basal attine lineages often shifted between two main cultivar clades, whereas the derived higher-attine lineages maintained an association with a monophyletic clade of specialized symbionts. In conjunction with the transition to specialized symbionts, the ants advanced in colony size and social complexity. Here we provide a comparative study of the functional specialization in extracellular enzyme activities in fungus gardens across the attine phylogeny. We show that, relative to sister clades, gardens of higher-attine ants have enhanced activity of protein-digesting enzymes, whereas gardens of leaf-cutting ants also have increased activity of starch-digesting enzymes. However, the enzyme activities of lower-attine fungus gardens are targeted primarily toward partial degradation of plant cell walls, reflecting a plesiomorphic state of nondomesticated fungi. The enzyme profiles of the higher-attine and leaf-cutting gardens appear particularly suited to digest fresh plant materials and to access nutrients from live cells without major breakdown of cell walls. The adaptive significance of the lower-attine symbiont shifts remains unclear. One of these shifts was obligate, but digestive advantages remained ambiguous, whereas the other remained facultative despite providing greater digestive efficiency.

  14. 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

  15. The status of the fungi-grower ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Puerto Rico and adjacent islands

    Treesearch

    J.A. Torres

    1989-01-01

    Ants of the tribe Attini (fungus grower) collect different organic materials that are used to grow a fungus. It was thought that the fungus mycelium was the only source of nutrition for these ants, but Quinlan and Cherrett found that Atta cephalotes (L.) squeezes oils from fresh leaves and uses them as food.  These oils supplement the fungus material eaten by this...

  16. Vegetation Changes in a Native Forest Produced by Atta vollenweideri Forel 1893 (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Nests.

    PubMed

    Sabattini, J A; Sabattini, R A; Cian, J C; Sabattini, I A

    2017-03-31

    Herbivory is an important factor to generate spatial mosaics with variations in a plant community composition and organization. The objective of this work was to determine the impact of Atta vollenweideri Forel 1893 nests on herbaceous and shrub vegetation in a degraded native forest of the Espinal ecoregion. The study was carried out in the Protected Area and Multiple Use Nature Reserve called Estancia "El Carayá" (Entre Ríos, Argentina). Ten A. vollenweideri nests were selected by simple random sampling through internal roads, and two transects were drawn from the center of the nest (0 m) up to 60 m away in opposite directions. The line intercept method was used to quantify the percentage of vegetation cover of herbaceous and shrub species, while the floristic composition was estimated by the Canfield method. Afterwards, a nonparametric test between positions and a conglomerate analysis to evaluated distance were applied. Grass species, legumes, and sedges fell in the adjacent areas to nests, highlighting the bare soil at the crest and base of the nests. Fifteen plant species were identified, and two families correspond to monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous species. In conclusion, the nests of A. vollenweideri affect the community of herbaceous and shrub vegetation of the studied degraded native forest of the Espinal ecoregion since these ants perform a high selection of herbaceous species considered as pioneers of plant successions.

  17. Optimal conditions to rear phorid parasitoids (Diptera: Phoridae) of Atta vollenweideri and Acromyrmex lundii (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Guillade, Andrea C; Folgarait, Patricia J

    2014-04-01

    Phorid flies have been considered viable options for biological control of leaf-cutter ants because they are highly specific to these hosts, producing direct mortality and also affecting the normal functioning of colonies. Designing protocols for mass rearing of these insects requires knowing the temperature and humidity conditions that optimize their development in terms of duration, survivorship and longevity of adults. We reared Apocephalus setitarsus Brown, Eibesfeldtphora trilobata Disney, and Myrmosicarius brandaoi Disney, which are specific leaf-cutter ant parasitoids of Atta vollenweideri Forel, and Apocephalus neivai Borgmeier and Myrmosicarius catharinensis Borgmeier, which are parasitoids of Acromyrmex lundii Guérin-Méneville. Phorids were maintained under one of five different rearing conditions, 20°C high humidity (20HH), 24°C low and high humidity (24LH and 24HH), and 28°C low and high humidity (28LH and 28HH). Flies from all species could complete their development under all the conditions tested. As expected, the 20HH treatment significantly lengthened all developmental periods in all species, whereas the shortest duration was achieved under 28HH. Although pupal survivorship was highest at 24HH, the greatest longevity of adults was achieved at 20HH. Percentage of pupae obtained and pupal survivorship also exhibited the highest values at 24HH. The rearing efficiency index was highest for all species at 24HH. Therefore, we suggest this temperature and humidity combination as the most suitable for rearing these species, whereas the 20HH treatment is ideal for maintaining adults for longer periods, which would be advantageous for synchronizing matings and mass releases of adults in the field.

  18. 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)

  19. 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)

  20. 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.

  1. The evolution of genome size in ants

    PubMed Central

    2008-01-01

    Background Despite the economic and ecological importance of ants, genomic tools for this family (Formicidae) remain woefully scarce. Knowledge of genome size, for example, is a useful and necessary prerequisite for the development of many genomic resources, yet it has been reported for only one ant species (Solenopsis invicta), and the two published estimates for this species differ by 146.7 Mb (0.15 pg). Results Here, we report the genome size for 40 species of ants distributed across 10 of the 20 currently recognized subfamilies, thus making Formicidae the 4th most surveyed insect family and elevating the Hymenoptera to the 5th most surveyed insect order. Our analysis spans much of the ant phylogeny, from the less derived Amblyoponinae and Ponerinae to the more derived Myrmicinae, Formicinae and Dolichoderinae. We include a number of interesting and important taxa, including the invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), Neotropical army ants (genera Eciton and Labidus), trapjaw ants (Odontomachus), fungus-growing ants (Apterostigma, Atta and Sericomyrmex), harvester ants (Messor, Pheidole and Pogonomyrmex), carpenter ants (Camponotus), a fire ant (Solenopsis), and a bulldog ant (Myrmecia). Our results show that ants possess small genomes relative to most other insects, yet genome size varies three-fold across this insect family. Moreover, our data suggest that two whole-genome duplications may have occurred in the ancestors of the modern Ectatomma and Apterostigma. Although some previous studies of other taxa have revealed a relationship between genome size and body size, our phylogenetically-controlled analysis of this correlation did not reveal a significant relationship. Conclusion This is the first analysis of genome size in ants (Formicidae) and the first across multiple species of social insects. We show that genome size is a variable trait that can evolve gradually over long time spans, as well as rapidly, through processes that may include occasional

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

    PubMed

    Mayer, V E; Lauth, J; Orivel, J

    2017-01-01

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

  3. Thermal constraints on foraging of tropical canopy ants.

    PubMed

    Spicer, Michelle Elise; Stark, Alyssa Y; Adams, Benjamin J; Kneale, Riley; Kaspari, Michael; Yanoviak, Stephen P

    2017-04-01

    Small cursorial ectotherms risk overheating when foraging in the tropical forest canopy, where the surfaces of unshaded tree branches commonly exceed 50 °C. We quantified the heating and subsequent cooling rates of 11 common canopy ant species from Panama and tested the hypothesis that ant workers stop foraging at temperatures consistent with the prevention of overheating. We created hot experimental "sunflecks" on existing foraging trails of four ant species from different clades and spanning a broad range of body size, heating rate, and critical thermal maxima (CTmax). Different ant species exhibited very different heating rates in the lab, and these differences did not follow trends predicted by body size alone. Experiments with ant models showed that heating rates are strongly affected by color in addition to body size. Foraging workers of all species showed strong responses to heating and consistently abandoned focal sites between 36 and 44 °C. Atta colombica and Azteca trigona workers resumed foraging shortly after heat was removed, but Cephalotes atratus and Dolichoderus bispinosus workers continued to avoid the heated patch even after >5 min of cooling. Large foraging ants (C. atratus) responded slowly to developing thermal extremes, whereas small ants (A. trigona) evacuated sunflecks relatively quickly, and at lower estimated body temperatures than when revisiting previously heated patches. The results of this study provide the first field-based insight into how foraging ants respond behaviorally to the heterogeneous thermal landscape of the tropical forest canopy.

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

    PubMed

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

    2012-01-06

    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.

  5. The most relictual fungus-farming ant species cultivates the most recently evolved and highly domesticated fungal symbiont species.

    PubMed

    Schultz, Ted R; Sosa-Calvo, Jeffrey; Brady, Seán G; Lopes, Cauê T; Mueller, Ulrich G; Bacci, Mauricio; Vasconcelos, Heraldo L

    2015-05-01

    Fungus-farming (attine) ant agriculture is made up of five known agricultural systems characterized by remarkable symbiont fidelity in which five phylogenetic groups of ants faithfully cultivate five phylogenetic groups of fungi. Here we describe the first case of a lower-attine ant cultivating a higher-attine fungus based on our discovery of a Brazilian population of the relictual fungus-farming ant Apterostigma megacephala, known previously from four stray specimens from Peru and Colombia. We find that A. megacephala is the sole surviving representative of an ancient lineage that diverged ∼39 million years ago, very early in the ∼55-million-year evolution of fungus-farming ants. Contrary to all previously known patterns of ant-fungus symbiont fidelity, A. megacephala cultivates Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, a highly domesticated fungal cultivar that originated only 2-8 million years ago in the gardens of the highly derived and recently evolved (∼12 million years ago) leaf-cutting ants. Because no other lower fungus-farming ant is known to cultivate any of the higher-attine fungi, let alone the leaf-cutter fungus, A. megacephala may provide important clues about the biological mechanisms constraining the otherwise seemingly obligate ant-fungus associations that characterize attine ant agriculture.

  6. Ecology of microfungal communities in gardens of fungus-growing ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): a year-long survey of three species of attine ants in Central Texas.

    PubMed

    Rodrigues, Andre; Mueller, Ulrich G; Ishak, Heather D; Bacci, Maurício; Pagnocca, Fernando C

    2011-11-01

    We profiled the microfungal communities in gardens of fungus-growing ants to evaluate possible species-specific ant-microfungal associations and to assess the potential dependencies of microfungal diversity on ant foraging behavior. In a 1-year survey, we isolated microfungi from nests of Cyphomyrmex wheeleri, Trachymyrmex septentrionalis and Atta texana in Central Texas. Microfungal prevalence was higher in gardens of C. wheeleri (57%) than in the gardens of T. septentrionalis (46%) and A. texana (35%). Culture-dependent methods coupled with a polyphasic approach of species identification revealed diverse and changing microfungal communities in all the sampling periods. Diversity analyses showed no obvious correlations between the number of observed microfungal species, ant species, or the ants' changing foraging behavior across the seasons. However, both correspondence analysis and 5.8S-rRNA gene unifrac analyses suggested structuring of microfungal communities by ant host. These host-specific differences may reflect in part the three different environments where ants were collected. Most interestingly, the specialized fungal parasite Escovopsis was not isolated from any attine garden in this study near the northernmost limit of the range of attine ants, contrasting with previous studies that indicated a significant incidence of this parasite in ant gardens from Central and South America. The observed differences of microfungal communities in attine gardens suggest that the ants are continuously in contact with a diverse microfungal species assemblage. © 2011 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.

  7. Ant Tower

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Mlot, Nathan; Shinotsuka, Sho; Hu, David

    2010-11-01

    Ants walk via adhesive drops of fluid extruded by their feet. They also use these drops as mortar to build structures such as rafts, bridges and towers, each composed of thousands of ants linked together. We investigate experimentally the construction of triangular ant towers braced by hydrophobic walls. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between tower height and contact angle hysteresis of the wall. We rationalize tower height according to ant adhesion, and tower shape according to the constraints on a column of constant strength.

  8. Queen reproductive tract secretions enhance sperm motility in ants

    PubMed Central

    Baer, Boris; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2016-01-01

    Queens of Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants store sperm of multiple males after a single mating flight, and never remate even though they may live for decades and lay tens of thousands of eggs. Sperm of different males are initially transferred to the bursa copulatrix and compete for access to the long-term storage organ of queens, but the factors determining storage success or failure have never been studied. We used in vitro experiments to show that reproductive tract secretions of Acromyrmex echinatior queens increase sperm swimming performance by at least 50% without discriminating between sperm of brothers and unrelated males. Indiscriminate female-induced sperm chemokinesis makes the likelihood of storage directly dependent on initial sperm viability and thus provides a simple mechanism to secure maximal possible reproductive success of queens, provided that initial sperm motility is an accurate predictor of viability during later egg fertilization. PMID:27807252

  9. The Hymenopterous Poison Apparatus. X. Morphological and Behavioral Changes in Atta texana (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

    Treesearch

    Henry R. Hermann; John C. Moser; Allen N. Hunt

    1970-01-01

    Atta texana (Buckley) and other members of this genus no longer utilize the 8th and 9th gonapophyses as part of their defensive system. Although the sclerites that comprise the stinging apparatus in most aculeate Hymenoptera are present in the species, they seem to function only in the deposition of trail pheromones. A mechanical and chemical defense...

  10. 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…

  11. Pholeomyia comans (Diptera: Milichiidae) an associate of Atta texana: larval anatomy and notes on biology

    Treesearch

    John C. Moser; Stuart E. Neff

    1971-01-01

    Adults of Pholeomyia comans enter the nests of Atta texana and lay eggs in the underground detritus cavities, where the maggots feed on exhausted fungus garden substrate and nest refuse recently deposited by workers. The thirdstage larva and the puparium are described. A diapriid wasp was obtained from P. comans puparia. One...

  12. Prudent sperm use by leaf-cutter ant queens

    PubMed Central

    den Boer, Susanne P. A.; Baer, Boris; Dreier, Stephanie; Aron, Serge; Nash, David R.; Boomsma, Jacobus J.

    2009-01-01

    In many species, females store sperm between copulation and egg fertilization, but the consequences of sperm storage and patterns of sperm use for female life history and reproductive success have not been investigated in great detail. In hymenopteran insect societies (ants, bees, wasps), reproduction is usually monopolized by one or relatively few queens, who mate only during a brief period early in life and store sperm for later use. The queens of some ants are particularly long-lived and have the potential to produce millions of offspring during their life. To do so, queens store many sperm cells, and this sperm must remain viable throughout the years of storage. Queens should also be under strong selection to use stored sperm prudently when fertilizing eggs. We used the leaf-cutter ant Atta colombica to investigate the dynamics of sperm use during egg fertilization. We show that queens are able to fertilize close to 100 per cent of the eggs and that the average sperm use per egg is very low, but increases with queen age. The robustness of stored sperm was found to decrease with years of storage, signifying that senescence affects sperm either directly or indirectly via the declining glandular secretions or deteriorating sperm-storage organs. We evaluate our findings with a heuristic model, which suggests that the average queen has sperm for almost 9 years of normal colony development. We discuss the extent to which leaf-cutter ant queens have been able to optimize their sperm expenditure and infer that our observed averages of sperm number, sperm robustness and sperm use are consistent with sperm depletion being a significant cause of mortality of mature colonies of Atta leaf-cutter ants. PMID:19710057

  13. Prudent sperm use by leaf-cutter ant queens.

    PubMed

    den Boer, Susanne P A; Baer, Boris; Dreier, Stephanie; Aron, Serge; Nash, David R; Boomsma, Jacobus J

    2009-11-22

    In many species, females store sperm between copulation and egg fertilization, but the consequences of sperm storage and patterns of sperm use for female life history and reproductive success have not been investigated in great detail. In hymenopteran insect societies (ants, bees, wasps), reproduction is usually monopolized by one or relatively few queens, who mate only during a brief period early in life and store sperm for later use. The queens of some ants are particularly long-lived and have the potential to produce millions of offspring during their life. To do so, queens store many sperm cells, and this sperm must remain viable throughout the years of storage. Queens should also be under strong selection to use stored sperm prudently when fertilizing eggs. We used the leaf-cutter ant Atta colombica to investigate the dynamics of sperm use during egg fertilization. We show that queens are able to fertilize close to 100 per cent of the eggs and that the average sperm use per egg is very low, but increases with queen age. The robustness of stored sperm was found to decrease with years of storage, signifying that senescence affects sperm either directly or indirectly via the declining glandular secretions or deteriorating sperm-storage organs. We evaluate our findings with a heuristic model, which suggests that the average queen has sperm for almost 9 years of normal colony development. We discuss the extent to which leaf-cutter ant queens have been able to optimize their sperm expenditure and infer that our observed averages of sperm number, sperm robustness and sperm use are consistent with sperm depletion being a significant cause of mortality of mature colonies of Atta leaf-cutter ants.

  14. ATTA-3: a State-of-the-Art Instrument for Radio-Krypton Dating

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Jiang, W.; Zappala, J. C.; Bailey, K.; Lu, Z.; Müller, P.; O'Connor, T. P.

    2013-12-01

    The ATTA-3 instrument at Argonne has recently enabled routine Kr-81 dating. The instrument is based on Atom Trap Trace Analysis (ATTA), a novel laser based atom counting technique that allows detection of long lived noble gas radioisotopes (Kr-81, Kr-85 and Ar-39) with extremely low abundance (1E-16 to 1E-10). At the center of the instrument is a magneto-optical trap (MOT), which traps and counts only the atoms of the desired isotope. This unique feature makes ATTA free of interference from any other isotopes or molecular species. For Kr-81 dating in the age range of 150 - 1,500 kyr, the required sample size is 5 - 10 micro-L STP of krypton gas, which can be extracted from approximately 100 - 200 kg of water or 40 - 80 kg of ice. Several recent developments in our lab may lead to further improvements to the current ATTA-3 apparatus: 1) The isotopic abundance ratio between the unknown, rare isotope (either Kr-81 or Kr-85) and the stable, abundant isotope (Kr-83) is measured. Here the stable isotope serves as a control isotope. A new method has been developed that allows more accurate measurements of the control isotope Kr-83. Combined with the ability to measure the rare Kr-81 and Kr-85 isotopes, this scheme allows ATTA-3 to directly determine 81Kr/Kr and 85Kr/Kr ratios without other supplemental measurements, to reduce the overall uncertainties of the measured isotope ratios, and also to improve the long term stability of the system. 2) The current capacity of the ATTA-3 instrument is about 120 samples per year. The throughput is mainly limited by the so called 'memory effect', which is caused by the residual samples trapped in the system after each measurement. These residual samples are gradually released in subsequent measurements, causing cross-sample contaminations. In order to mitigate this problem, we wash the system with a xenon discharge for about 36 hours between measurements. This practice limits the overall sample processing speed. Preliminary

  15. 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

  16. The thermoregulatory function of thatched nests in the South American grass-cutting ant, Acromyrmex heyeri.

    PubMed

    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.

  17. The ATTA-Hefei Instrument for Radioactive Noble-gas Dating

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Hu, S.; Cheng, C.; Cheng, G.; Sun, Y. R.; Tu, L.; Yang, G.

    2013-12-01

    Long-lived noble-gas isotopes 85Kr (10.8 y), 39Ar (269 y) and 81Kr (229 ky) are ideal tracers for dating environmental samples such as groundwater and ice. Together with 14C, these nuclides can be used to cover the whole range of 100-106 y. Atom Trap Trace Analysis (ATTA) is an emerging method for the analysis of these isotopes at an isotopic abundance level as low as 10^-16 [1,2]. The ATTA instrument built in Hefei, China, can determine the isotopic abundances of 85Kr and 81Kr with typically 5-10% accuracy using krypton gas samples of a few micro-liters (STP) krypton gas [3]. The krypton gas sample can be extracted from several liters of air using a distillation-chromatograph setup with a typical efficiency of 85%, while the air sample can be extracted from groundwater or ices. The typical sample size for ATTA measurement is 100L groundwater or 40Kg ices. One such ATTA beamline can handle about 100 samples per year. [1] Chen, C. Y. et al. Ultrasensitive isotope trace analyses with a magneto-optical trap. Science 286, 1139-1141 (1999). [2] Jiang, W. et al. 39Ar detection at the 10-16 isotopic abundance level with atom trap trace analysis. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 103001 (2011). [3] Yang, G. -M. et al. Analysis of 85Kr: a comparison at the 10-14 level using micro-liter samples, Sci. Rep. 3, 1596 (2013). Relative uncertainty of the determined 85Kr abundance by the ATTA-Hefei instrument.

  18. The allometry of brain miniaturization in ants.

    PubMed

    Seid, Marc A; Castillo, Armando; Wcislo, William T

    2011-01-01

    Extensive studies of vertebrates have shown that brain size scales to body size following power law functions. Most animals are substantially smaller than vertebrates, and extremely small animals face significant challenges relating to nervous system design and function, yet little is known about their brain allometry. Within a well-defined monophyletic taxon, Formicidae (ants), we analyzed how brain size scales to body size. An analysis of brain allometry for individuals of a highly polymorphic leaf-cutter ant, Atta colombica, shows that allometric coefficients differ significantly for small (<1.4 mg body mass) versus large individuals (b = 0.6003 and 0.2919, respectively). Interspecifically, allometric patterns differ for small (<0.9 mg body mass) versus large species (n = 70 species). Using mean values for species, the allometric coefficient for smaller species (b = 0.7961) is significantly greater than that for larger ones (b = 0.669). The smallest ants had brains that constitute ∼15% of their body mass, yet their brains were relatively smaller than predicted by an overall allometric coefficient of brain to body size. Our comparative and intraspecific studies show the extent to which nervous systems can be miniaturized in taxa exhibiting behavior that is apparently comparable to that of larger species or individuals.

  19. Weeding and grooming of pathogens in agriculture by ants.

    PubMed

    Currie, C R; Stuart, A E

    2001-05-22

    The ancient mutualism between fungus-growing ants and the fungi they cultivate for food is a textbook example of symbiosis. Fungus-growing ants' ability to cultivate fungi depends on protection of the garden from the aggressive microbes associated with the substrate added to the garden as well as from the specialized virulent garden parasite Escovopsis. We examined ants' ability to remove alien microbes physically by infecting Atta colombica gardens with the generalist pathogen Trichoderma viride and the specialist pathogen Escovopsis. The ants sanitized the garden using two main behaviours: grooming of alien spores from the garden (fungus grooming) and removal of infected garden substrate (weeding). Unlike previously described hygienic behaviours (e.g. licking and self-grooming), fungus-grooming and garden-removal behaviours are specific responses to the presence of fungal pathogens. In the presence of pathogens, they are the primary activities performed by workers, but they are uncommon in uninfected gardens. In fact, workers rapidly eliminate Trichoderma from their gardens by fungus grooming and weeding, suggesting that these behaviours are the primary method of garden defence against generalist pathogens. The same sanitary behaviours were performed in response to the presence of the specialist pathogen Escovopsis. However, the intensity and duration of these behaviours were much greater in this treatment. Despite the increased effort, the ants were unable to eliminate Escovopsis from their gardens, suggesting that this specialized pathogen has evolved counter-adaptations in order to overcome the sanitary defences of the ants.

  20. Susceptibility of the ant-cultivated fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus (Agaricales: Basidiomycota) towards microfungi.

    PubMed

    Silva, A; Rodrigues, A; Bacci, M; Pagnocca, F C; Bueno, O C

    2006-08-01

    The aim of this study was to select virulent strains of microfungi against Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, a symbiotic fungus cultivated by leaf-cutting ants. The results from in vitro assays showed that microfungal strains had a variable and significant impact on the colony development of L. gongylophorus. Specifically, Trichoderma harzianum, Escovopsis weberi CBS 810.71 and E. weberi A088 were more effective, inhibiting the L. gongylophorus colonies by 75, 68 and 67%, respectively (P < 0.05) after 15 days. Strain E. weberi A086 and Acremonium kiliense were less effective: 43 and 26%, respectively (P < 0.05). In spite of the current negative perspective of a microbiological control approach for these ants, the present work discusses the possibility of using mycopathogenic fungi for the control of these insects, and points out the importance of encouraging more studies in this area.

  1. Stinging ants.

    PubMed

    Rhoades, R

    2001-08-01

    Ants belong to the order Hymenoptera, along with bees, wasps, yellow jackets, etc., they are the most successful animal genera in this world. It is their selfless social structure which accounts for their huge impact. Their effect on man ranges from the parasol ant, which makes plant cultivation untenable in certain parts of South America, to Solenopsis Invicta in the southeastern United States of America, which kill ground dwelling birds and small animals, harass livestock, and renders farmland unusable. With the exception of the Bulldog Ant of Australia (which is the size of a medium cockroach) direct toxic effects are not a lethal threat to man. Human fatalities and morbidity are related to secondary infections of excoriated stings or allergic anaphylaxis. This article reviews history and recent developments regarding stinging ants around the world.

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

    PubMed

    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 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.

  3. 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.

  4. The effects of ant nests on soil fertility and plant performance: a meta-analysis.

    PubMed

    Farji-Brener, Alejandro G; Werenkraut, Victoria

    2017-07-01

    Ants are recognized as one of the major sources of soil disturbance world-wide. However, this view is largely based on isolated studies and qualitative reviews. Here, for the first time, we quantitatively determined whether ant nests affect soil fertility and plant performance, and identified the possible sources of variation of these effects. Using Bayesian mixed-models meta-analysis, we tested the hypotheses that ant effects on soil fertility and plant performance depend on the substrate sampled, ant feeding type, latitude, habitat and the plant response variable measured. Ant nests showed higher nutrient and cation content than adjacent non-nest soil samples, but similar pH. Nutrient content was higher in ant refuse materials than in nest soils. The fertilizer effect of ant nests was also higher in dry habitats than in grasslands or savannas. Cation content was higher in nests of plant-feeding ants than in nests of omnivorous species, and lower in nests from agro-ecosystems than in nests from any other habitat. Plants showed higher green/root biomass and fitness on ant nests soils than in adjacent, non-nest sites; but plant density and diversity were unaffected by the presence of ant nests. Root growth was particularly higher in refuse materials than in ant nest soils, in leaf-cutting ant nests and in deserts habitats. Our results confirm the major role of ant nests in influencing soil fertility and vegetation patterns and provide information about the factors that mediate these effects. First, ant nests improve soil fertility mainly through the accumulation of refuse materials. Thus, different refuse dump locations (external or in underground nest chambers) could benefit different vegetation life-forms. Second, ant nests could increase plant diversity at larger spatial scales only if the identity of favoured plants changes along environmental gradients (i.e. enhancing β-diversity). Third, ant species that feed on plants play a relevant role fertilizing soils

  5. Diversification of the ant odorant receptor gene family and positive selection on candidate cuticular hydrocarbon receptors.

    PubMed

    Engsontia, Patamarerk; Sangket, Unitsa; Robertson, Hugh M; Satasook, Chutamas

    2015-08-27

    Chemical communication plays important roles in the social behavior of ants making them one of the most successful groups of animals on earth. However, the molecular evolutionary process responsible for their chemosensory adaptation is still elusive. Recent advances in genomic studies have led to the identification of large odorant receptor (Or) gene repertoires from ant genomes providing fruitful materials for molecular evolution analysis. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that diversification of this gene family is involved in olfactory adaptation of each species. We annotated the Or genes from the genome sequences of two leaf-cutter ants, Acromyrmex echinatior and Atta cephalotes (385 and 376 putative functional genes, respectively). These were used, together with Or genes from Camponotus floridanus, Harpegnathos saltator, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, Linepithema humile, Cerapachys biroi, Solenopsis invicta and Apis mellifera, in molecular evolution analysis. Like the Or family in other insects, ant Or genes evolve by the birth-and-death model of gene family evolution. Large gene family expansions involving tandem gene duplications, and gene gains outnumbering losses, are observed. Codon analysis of genes in lineage-specific expansion clades revealed signatures of positive selection on the candidate cuticular hydrocarbon receptor genes (9-exon subfamily) of Cerapachys biroi, Camponotus floridanus, Acromyrmex echinatior and Atta cephalotes. Positively selected amino acid positions are primarily in transmembrane domains 3 and 6, which are hypothesized to contribute to the odor-binding pocket, presumably mediating changing ligand specificity. This study provides support for the hypothesis that some ant lineage-specific Or genes have evolved under positive selection. Newly duplicated genes particularly in the candidate cuticular hydrocarbon receptor clade that have evolved under positive selection may contribute to the highly sophisticated lineage

  6. 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)

  7. 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)

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. Antagonistic Bacterial Interactions Help Shape Host-Symbiont Dynamics within the Fungus-Growing Ant-Microbe Mutualism

    PubMed Central

    Poulsen, Michael; Erhardt, Daniel P.; Molinaro, Daniel J.; Lin, Ting-Li; Currie, Cameron R.

    2007-01-01

    Conflict within mutually beneficial associations is predicted to destabilize relationships, and theoretical and empirical work exploring this has provided significant insight into the dynamics of cooperative interactions. Within mutualistic associations, the expression and regulation of conflict is likely more complex than in intraspecific cooperative relationship, because of the potential presence of: i) multiple genotypes of microbial species associated with individual hosts, ii) multiple species of symbiotic lineages forming cooperative partner pairings, and iii) additional symbiont lineages. Here we explore complexity of conflict expression within the ancient and coevolved mutualistic association between attine ants, their fungal cultivar, and actinomycetous bacteria (Pseudonocardia). Specifically, we examine conflict between the ants and their Pseudonocardia symbionts maintained to derive antibiotics against parasitic microfungi (Escovopsis) infecting the ants' fungus garden. Symbiont assays pairing isolates of Pseudonocardia spp. associated with fungus-growing ants spanning the phylogenetic diversity of the mutualism revealed that antagonism between strains is common. In contrast, antagonism was substantially less common between more closely related bacteria associated with Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants. In both experiments, the observed variation in antagonism across pairings was primarily due to the inhibitory capabilities and susceptibility of individual strains, but also the phylogenetic relationships between the ant host of the symbionts, as well as the pair-wise genetic distances between strains. The presence of antagonism throughout the phylogenetic diversity of Pseudonocardia symbionts indicates that these reactions likely have shaped the symbiosis from its origin. Antagonism is expected to prevent novel strains from invading colonies, enforcing single-strain rearing within individual ant colonies. While this may align ant-actinomycete interests in the

  11. Antagonistic bacterial interactions help shape host-symbiont dynamics within the fungus-growing ant-microbe mutualism.

    PubMed

    Poulsen, Michael; Erhardt, Daniel P; Molinaro, Daniel J; Lin, Ting-Li; Currie, Cameron R

    2007-09-26

    Conflict within mutually beneficial associations is predicted to destabilize relationships, and theoretical and empirical work exploring this has provided significant insight into the dynamics of cooperative interactions. Within mutualistic associations, the expression and regulation of conflict is likely more complex than in intraspecific cooperative relationship, because of the potential presence of: i) multiple genotypes of microbial species associated with individual hosts, ii) multiple species of symbiotic lineages forming cooperative partner pairings, and iii) additional symbiont lineages. Here we explore complexity of conflict expression within the ancient and coevolved mutualistic association between attine ants, their fungal cultivar, and actinomycetous bacteria (Pseudonocardia). Specifically, we examine conflict between the ants and their Pseudonocardia symbionts maintained to derive antibiotics against parasitic microfungi (Escovopsis) infecting the ants' fungus garden. Symbiont assays pairing isolates of Pseudonocardia spp. associated with fungus-growing ants spanning the phylogenetic diversity of the mutualism revealed that antagonism between strains is common. In contrast, antagonism was substantially less common between more closely related bacteria associated with Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants. In both experiments, the observed variation in antagonism across pairings was primarily due to the inhibitory capabilities and susceptibility of individual strains, but also the phylogenetic relationships between the ant host of the symbionts, as well as the pair-wise genetic distances between strains. The presence of antagonism throughout the phylogenetic diversity of Pseudonocardia symbionts indicates that these reactions likely have shaped the symbiosis from its origin. Antagonism is expected to prevent novel strains from invading colonies, enforcing single-strain rearing within individual ant colonies. While this may align ant-actinomycete interests in the

  12. Using Atom Trap Trace Analysis (ATTA) To Measure Trace Krypton Contamination in Xenon

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Loose, Andre; Yoon, Tae-Hyun; Goetzke, Luke; Aprile, Elena; Zelevinsky, Tanya

    2013-05-01

    For Xe and other noble liquids used in rare process searches like the XENON dark matter experiments, Kr contamination contributes background events through the beta decay of long-lived radioactive 85Kr. To achieve the sensitivity required of the next generation of detectors, the Kr contamination must be reduced to below the part per trillion (ppt) level. While cryogenic distillation is an established technology for the purification of Xe from Kr at the ppt level, there is no conventional method capable of reliably measuring such extremely low contamination. We developed an ATTA system based on laser cooling, trapping and counting of single Kr atoms in Xe, which will enable a rapid and reliable measurement of Kr concentration at the required ppt level. A RF plasma discharge is used to excite 84Kr atoms to the metastable state. The 84Kr* are cooled and trapped in a MOT using traditional magneto-optical techniques. The low contamination level of Kr in Xe leads to an average population of the MOT of less than one atom. Since Ar and Kr have similar wavelengths, the apparatus has been initially setup up using Ar, to avoid contamination with Kr. We will discuss switching from Ar to Kr in Xe, and initial measurements using Xe with defined levels of Kr contamination. The ATTA experiment is funded by the NSF MRI program.

  13. 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

    2011-03-08

    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.

  14. Preparation of water and ice samples for 39Ar dating by atom trap trace analysis (ATTA)

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Schwefel, R.; Reichel, T.; Aeschbach-Hertig, W.; Wagenbach, D.

    2012-04-01

    Atom trap trace analysis (ATTA) is a new and promising method to measure very rare noble gas radioisotopes in the environment. The applicability of this method for the dating of very old groundwater with 81Kr has already been demonstrated [1]. Recent developments now show its feasibility also for the analysis of 39Ar [2,3], which is an ideal dating tracer for the age range between 50 and 1000 years. This range is of interest in the fields of hydro(geo)logy, oceanography, and glaciology. We present preparation (gas extraction and Ar separation) methods for groundwater and ice samples for later analysis by the ATTA technique. For groundwater, the sample size is less of a limitation than for applications in oceanography or glaciology. Large samples are furthermore needed to enable a comparison with the classical method of 39Ar detection by low-level counting. Therefore, a system was built that enables gas extraction from several thousand liters of water using membrane contactors. This system provides degassing efficiencies greater than 80 % and has successfully been tested in the field. Gas samples are further processed to separate a pure Ar fraction by a gas-chromatographic method based on Li-LSX zeolite as selective adsorber material at very low temperatures. The gas separation achieved by this system is controlled by a quadrupole mass spectrometer. It has successfully been tested and used on real samples. The separation efficiency was found to be strongly temperature dependent in the range of -118 to -130 °C. Since ATTA should enable the analysis of 39Ar on samples of less than 1 ccSTP of Ar (corresponding to about 100 ml of air, 2.5 l of water or 1 kg of ice), a method to separate Ar from small amounts of gas was developed. Titanium sponge was found to absorb 60 ccSTP of reactive gases per g of the getter material with reasonably high absorption rates at high operating temperatures (~ 800 ° C). Good separation (higher than 92 % Ar content in residual gas) was

  15. A World of Ants.

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Flannery, Maura C.

    1992-01-01

    Presents a discussion of interesting aspects of ants that was launched by the author's reading of "The Ants" by Holldobler and Wilson (1990). Describes how the study of the early history of ant taxonomy could be viewed as "entertaining." Their huge numbers and segregation into colonial social systems makes ants good research organisms. (PR)

  16. ATTA Device for Measuring Trace Kr Contamination in Xenon Dark Matter Detectors

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Goetzke, Luke; Yoon, Tae Hyun; Loose, Andre; Aprile, Elena; Zelevinsky, Tanya

    2012-06-01

    The XENON dark matter experiments search for low-energy elastic scattering events of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) off Xe nuclei. For Xe targets and other noble liquids used in rare process searches, Kr contamination contributes background events through the beta decay of long-lived radioactive Kr-85. To achieve the sensitivity required of the next generation of dark matter detectors, the Kr contamination must be reduced to less than one part per trillion (ppt). We have developed an Atom Trap Trace Analysis (ATTA) device to measure Kr/Xe at the ppt level. Metastable Kr-84 is cooled and trapped in a magneto-optical trap, and imaged with a sensitive photodetector. Since Ar and Kr have similar wavelengths, the apparatus has been initially tested with Ar to avoid contamination. Results from tests with Ar and single atom detection with Kr will be presented.

  17. Variability of non-mutualistic filamentous fungi associated with Atta sexdens rubropilosa nests.

    PubMed

    Rodrigues, A; Pagnocca, F C; Bacci, M Júnior; Hebling, M J A; Bueno, O C; Pfenning, L H

    2005-01-01

    A survey of the filamentous fungi other than the symbiotic one found in association with Atta sexdens rubropilosa colonies was carried out. Different fungal species (27 taxa) were isolated a few days after treating the workers with toxic baits (sulfluramid; Mirex-S), from 40 laboratory and 20 field nests. Syncephalastrum racemosum (54%) and Escovopsis weberi (21%), Trichoderma harzianum (38%) and Fusarium oxysporum (23%) were the prevalent species in laboratory and field nests, respectively. Acremonium kiliense, Acremonium strictum, E. weberi, F. oxysporum, Fusarium solani, Moniliella suaveolens and T. harzianum were found in both nests' groups. We revealed that many filamentous fungi can co-exist in a dormant state inside the nests of these insects and some of them appear to be tightly associated with this environment.

  18. Leucoagaricus gongylophorus produces diverse enzymes for the degradation of recalcitrant plant polymers in leaf-cutter ant fungus gardens.

    PubMed

    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; Currie, Cameron R

    2013-06-01

    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.

  19. A metabolic pathway assembled by enzyme selection may support herbivory of leaf-cutter ants on plant starch.

    PubMed

    Bacci, Maurício; Bueno, Odair Correa; Rodrigues, André; Pagnocca, Fernando Carlos; Somera, Alexandre Favarin; Silva, Aline

    2013-05-01

    Mutualistic associations shape the evolution in different organism groups. The association between the leaf-cutter ant Atta sexdens and the basidiomycete fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus has enabled them to degrade starch from plant material generating glucose, which is a major food source for both mutualists. Starch degradation is promoted by enzymes contained in the fecal fluid that ants deposit on the fungus culture in cut leaves inside the nests. To understand the dynamics of starch degradation in ant nests, we purified and characterized starch degrading enzymes from the ant fecal fluid and from laboratory cultures of L. gongylophorus and found that the ants intestine positively selects fungal α-amylase and a maltase likely produced by the ants, as a negative selection is imposed to fungal maltase and ant α-amylases. Selected enzymes are more resistant to catabolic repression by glucose and proposed to structure a metabolic pathway in which the fungal α-amylase initiates starch catalysis to generate byproducts which are sequentially degraded by the maltase to produce glucose. The pathway is responsible for effective degradation of starch and proposed to represent a major evolutionary innovation enabling efficient starch assimilation from plant material by leaf-cutters.

  20. Reduced biological control and enhanced chemical pest management in the evolution of fungus farming in ants

    PubMed Central

    Fernández-Marín, Hermógenes; Zimmerman, Jess K.; Nash, David R.; Boomsma, Jacobus J.; Wcislo, William T.

    2009-01-01

    To combat disease, most fungus-growing ants (Attini) use antibiotics from mutualistic bacteria (Pseudonocardia) that are cultured on the ants' exoskeletons and chemical cocktails from exocrine glands, especially the metapleural glands (MG). Previous work has hypothesized that (i) Pseudonocardia antibiotics are narrow-spectrum and control a fungus (Escovopsis) that parasitizes the ants' fungal symbiont, and (ii) MG secretions have broad-spectrum activity and protect ants and brood. We assessed the relative importance of these lines of defence, and their activity spectra, by scoring abundance of visible Pseudonocardia for nine species from five genera and measuring rates of MG grooming after challenging ants with disease agents of differing virulence. Atta and Sericomyrmex have lost or greatly reduced the abundance of visible bacteria. When challenged with diverse disease agents, including Escovopsis, they significantly increased MG grooming rates and expanded the range of targets. By contrast, species of Acromyrmex and Trachymyrmex maintain abundant Pseudonocardia. When challenged, these species had lower MG grooming rates, targeted primarily to brood. More elaborate MG defences and reduced reliance on mutualistic Pseudonocardia are correlated with larger colony size among attine genera, raising questions about the efficacy of managing disease in large societies with chemical cocktails versus bacterial antimicrobial metabolites. PMID:19324734

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Fire Ant Allergy

    MedlinePlus

    ... Serious Reaction For people with fire ant allergy, stings may cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis ( ... Fire ants bite with their jaws while they sting. This allows them to pull the stinger out, ...

  5. Disease defence through generations: leaf-cutter ants and their symbiotic bacteria.

    PubMed

    Woodhams, Douglas C; Brucker, Robert M

    2013-08-01

    Microbial ecology of animals is taking on significance in the modern dialogue for the biology of species. Similar to a nuclear genome, the entire bacterial assemblage maintains an ancestral signal of the host's evolution leading to cophylogeny between the host and the microbes they harbour (Brucker & Bordenstein 2012b). The stability of such associations is of great interest as they provide a means for species to acquire new traits and genetic diversity that their own genomes lack (McFall-Ngai et al. 2013). The role of gut microbiota, for example, in host health and nutrition is widely recognized and a shared characteristic among animals. The role of bacteria colonizing the outside surfaces of animals is less well understood, but rather than random colonization, these microbes on skin, cuticles, scales and feathers in many cases provide benefits to the host. The symbiosis of leaf-cutter ants, their fungus gardens and their microbiota is a fascinating and complex system. Whether culture-independent bacterial diversity on the cuticle of leaf-cutter ants is high or highly constrained by subcuticular gland secretions is one prominent question. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Andersen et al. (2013) show that leaf-cutting ants, Acromyrmex echinatior, maintain a dominant and colony-specific bacterium called Pseudonocardia on their cuticles (the laterocervical plates in particular). This bacterium is involved in protecting the ants and their fungal gardens from disease. Other fungus-gardening attine species as well as soil and vegetation can harbour Pseudonocardia. However, it was previously unknown how stable the bacterial strain-ant colony association was through the lifetime of the colony.

  6. 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.

  7. Identification and expression of capa gene in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta.

    PubMed

    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.

  8. High-speed counter-current chromatographic isolation of ricinine, an insecticide from Ricinus communis.

    PubMed

    Cazal, Cristiane de Melo; Batalhão, Jaqueline Raquel; Domingues, Vanessa de Cássia; Bueno, Odair Corrêa; Filho, Edson Rodrigues; Forim, Moacir R; da Silva, Maria Fátima G Fernandes; Vieira, Paulo Cezar; Fernandes, João Batista

    2009-05-08

    The alkaloid ricinine, an insecticide for leaf-cutting ant (Atta sexdens rubropilosa), was obtained from Ricinus communis. A two-phase solvent system composed of CH(2)Cl(2)/EtOH/H(2)O (93:35:72, v/v/v) was used for high-speed counter-current chromatographic (HSCCC) isolation of ricinine in high yield and with over 96% purity, as determined by liquid and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS and GC-MS). Identification of ricinine was performed by comparison of (1)H NMR, (13)C NMR and LC-MS/MS data.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Ants in Space

    NASA Image and Video Library

    2014-01-12

    ISS038-E-029065 (12 Jan. 2014) --- In the International Space Station's Destiny laboratory, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Expedition 38 flight engineer, uses a video camera to photograph the Ant Forage Habitat Facility which will study ant behavior and colonization in microgravity.

  12. Ants in Space

    NASA Image and Video Library

    2014-01-13

    ISS038-E-029133 (12 Jan. 2014) --- The Ant Forage Habitat Facility is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member on the International Space Station. The study examines the behavior of ants by comparing groups living on Earth to those in space.

  13. Ants in Space

    NASA Image and Video Library

    2014-01-12

    ISS038-E-029059 (12 Jan. 2014) --- In the International Space Station's Destiny laboratory, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Expedition 38 flight engineer, uses a video camera to photograph the Ant Forage Habitat Facility which will study ant behavior and colonization in microgravity.

  14. Ants in Space

    NASA Image and Video Library

    2014-01-12

    ISS038-E-029077 (12 Jan. 2014) --- In the International Space Station's Harmony node, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, Expedition 38 flight engineer, uses a video camera to photograph the Ant Forage Habitat Facility which will study ant behavior and colonization in microgravity.

  15. Ants in Space

    NASA Image and Video Library

    2014-01-13

    ISS038-E-029106 (12 Jan. 2014) --- The Ant Forage Habitat Facility is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member on the International Space Station. The study examines the behavior of ants by comparing groups living on Earth to those in space.

  16. Ants in Space

    NASA Image and Video Library

    2014-01-12

    ISS038-E-029062 (12 Jan. 2014) --- In the International Space Station's Destiny laboratory, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Expedition 38 flight engineer, uses a video camera to photograph the Ant Forage Habitat Facility which will study ant behavior and colonization in microgravity.

  17. Ants in Space

    NASA Image and Video Library

    2014-01-14

    ISS038-E-029161 (12 Jan. 2014) --- The Ant Forage Habitat Facility is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member on the International Space Station. The study examines the behavior of ants by comparing groups living on Earth to those in space.

  18. Ant mediated redistribution of a xyloglucanase enzyme in fungus gardens of Acromyrmex echinatior.

    PubMed

    Kooij, Pepijn W; Pullens, Jeroen W M; Boomsma, Jacobus J; Schiøtt, Morten

    2016-05-06

    Xyloglucan is an important component in plant cell walls that herbivores cannot digest without microbial symbionts. Leaf-cutting ants are major insect herbivores in the Neo-Tropics that rely on fungus-garden enzymes for degrading plant cell walls. However, many of these ants discard much of their harvested plant material after partial degradation, which has led to the hypothesis that the fungal symbionts are primarily producing cell wall degrading enzymes to gain access to intracellular nutrients rather than for obtaining sugars from recalcitrant cell wall polymers, such as (hemi-)cellulose. The fungal symbiont provides a single xyloglucanase (Xeg1) to its ant farmers by upregulating the expression of this protein in the inflated hyphal tips (gongylidia) that the ants ingest. Similar to other enzymes ingested this way, also Xeg1 is not digested but vectored to the fresh leaf-fragment pulp at the top of fungus gardens via ant fecal fluid. Xeg1 is 4-5 times more active in fecal fluid when ants ingest their normal fungal food, compared to a sucrose control diet, as expected when they cannot produce Xeg1 themselves. We confirm substrate specificity of fungal Xeg1 towards xyloglucan by heterologous expression in yeast and show that xyloglucanase activity is higher in the oldest, bottom layers of fungus gardens and in discarded debris material than in the upper and middle layers of fungus gardens. Our results are consistent with Xeg1 playing a role in the initial breakdown of plant cell wall hemicellulose to provide sugars for aggressive hyphal growth before intracellular proteins become available. Xeg1 does not play a major decomposition role in the middle layer of fungus gardens where it is produced by the gongylidia. Overall high xyloglucanase activity in old mycelium that is (about to be) discarded is striking and quite possibly serves defensive purposes by precluding that competing microorganisms can grow. Our results support the hypothesis that the ant

  19. Field techniques for sampling ants

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  20. The effects of light on foliar chemistry, growth and susceptibility of seedlings of a canopy tree to an attine ant.

    PubMed

    Nichols-Orians, Colin M

    1991-05-01

    Seedlings of Inga oerstediana Benth. (Mimosaceae) growing in three different light environments (the understory, tree-fall gaps and full sun) were tested for differences in chemistry (nutrients and tannins), wound-induced increases in tannins, growth, and susceptibility to leaf-cutter ants, Atta cephalotes (L.) (Formicidae: Attini). I hypothesized that seedlings of I. oerstediana would contain higher concentrations of tannins when growing in high light conditions and, therefore, would be less susceptible to leaf-cutter ants.Foliar concentrations of condensed tannins were much higher in plants growing in full sun compared to those growing in the understory. The concentrations of condensed tannins did not increase following damage. Despite higher concentrations of condensed tannins in sun foliage, leaf-cutter ants found these leaves more acceptable. The preference for sun leaves was consistent with higher concentrations of foliar nutrients. I suggest that the magnitude of the increase in condensed tannins was not great enough to override the benefits of increased concentrations of foliar nutrients. Finally, based on these results and those of others, I suggest that foraging by leaf-cutter ants may be an important factor determining patterns of succession in early successional habitats.

  1. An atom trap trace analysis (ATTA) system for measuring ultra-low contamination by krypton in xenon dark matter detectors

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Yoon, Tae Hyun

    The XENON dark matter experiment aims to detect hypothetical weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) scattering off nuclei within its liquid xenon (LXe) target. The trace 85Kr in the xenon target undergoes beta-decay with a 687 keV end point and 10.8 year halflife, which contributes background events and limits the sensitivity of the experiment. In order to achieve the desired sensitivity, the contamination by krypton is reduced to the part per trillion (ppt) level by cryogenic distillation. The conventional methods are not well suited for measuring the krypton contamination at such a low level. In this work, we have developed an atom trap trace analysis (ATTA) device to detect the ultra-low krypton concentration in the xenon target. This project was proposed to the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) development [Aprile and Zelevinsky, 2009] and is funded by NSF and Columbia University. The ATTA method, originally developed at Argonne National Laboratory, uses standard laser cooling and trapping techniques, and counts single trapped atoms. Since the isotopic abundance of 85Kr in nature is 1.5 x 10-11, the 85Kr/Xe level is expected to be ˜10-23, which is beyond the capability of our method. Thus we detect the most abundant (57%) isotope 84Kr, and infer the 85Kr contamination from their known abundances. To avoid contamination by krypton, the setup is tested and optimized with 40 Ar which has a similar cooling wavelength to 84Kr. Two main challenges in this experiment are to obtain a trapping efficiency high enough to detect krypton impurities at the ppt level, and to achieve the resolution to discriminate single atoms. The device is specially designed and adjusted to meet these challenges. After achieving these criteria with argon gas, we precisely characterize the efficiency of the system using Kr-Xe mixtures with known ratios, and find that ˜90 minutes are required to trap one 84Kr atom at the 1-ppt Kr

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  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. 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.

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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. Genome Analysis of Two Pseudonocardia Phylotypes Associated with Acromyrmex Leafcutter Ants Reveals Their Biosynthetic Potential

    PubMed Central

    Holmes, Neil A.; Innocent, Tabitha M.; Heine, Daniel; Bassam, Mahmoud Al; Worsley, Sarah F.; Trottmann, Felix; Patrick, Elaine H.; Yu, Douglas W.; Murrell, J. C.; Schiøtt, Morten; Wilkinson, Barrie; Boomsma, Jacobus J.; Hutchings, Matthew I.

    2016-01-01

    The attine ants of South and Central America are ancient farmers, having evolved a symbiosis with a fungal food crop >50 million years ago. The most evolutionarily derived attines are the Atta and Acromyrmex leafcutter ants, which harvest fresh leaves to feed their fungus. Acromyrmex and many other attines vertically transmit a mutualistic strain of Pseudonocardia and use antifungal compounds made by these bacteria to protect their fungal partner against co-evolved fungal pathogens of the genus Escovopsis. Pseudonocardia mutualists associated with the attines Apterostigma dentigerum and Trachymyrmex cornetzi make novel cyclic depsipeptide compounds called gerumycins, while a mutualist strain isolated from derived Acromyrmex octospinosus makes an unusual polyene antifungal called nystatin P1. The novelty of these antimicrobials suggests there is merit in exploring secondary metabolites of Pseudonocardia on a genome-wide scale. Here, we report a genomic analysis of the Pseudonocardia phylotypes Ps1 and Ps2 that are consistently associated with Acromyrmex ants collected in Gamboa, Panama. These were previously distinguished solely on the basis of 16S rRNA gene sequencing but genome sequencing of five Ps1 and five Ps2 strains revealed that the phylotypes are distinct species and each encodes between 11 and 15 secondary metabolite biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs). There are signature BGCs for Ps1 and Ps2 strains and some that are conserved in both. Ps1 strains all contain BGCs encoding nystatin P1-like antifungals, while the Ps2 strains encode novel nystatin-like molecules. Strains show variations in the arrangement of these BGCs that resemble those seen in gerumycin gene clusters. Genome analyses and invasion assays support our hypothesis that vertically transmitted Ps1 and Ps2 strains have antibacterial activity that could help shape the cuticular microbiome. Thus, our work defines the Pseudonocardia species associated with Acromyrmex ants and supports the hypothesis

  9. Genome Analysis of Two Pseudonocardia Phylotypes Associated with Acromyrmex Leafcutter Ants Reveals Their Biosynthetic Potential.

    PubMed

    Holmes, Neil A; Innocent, Tabitha M; Heine, Daniel; Bassam, Mahmoud Al; Worsley, Sarah F; Trottmann, Felix; Patrick, Elaine H; Yu, Douglas W; Murrell, J C; Schiøtt, Morten; Wilkinson, Barrie; Boomsma, Jacobus J; Hutchings, Matthew I

    2016-01-01

    The attine ants of South and Central America are ancient farmers, having evolved a symbiosis with a fungal food crop >50 million years ago. The most evolutionarily derived attines are the Atta and Acromyrmex leafcutter ants, which harvest fresh leaves to feed their fungus. Acromyrmex and many other attines vertically transmit a mutualistic strain of Pseudonocardia and use antifungal compounds made by these bacteria to protect their fungal partner against co-evolved fungal pathogens of the genus Escovopsis. Pseudonocardia mutualists associated with the attines Apterostigma dentigerum and Trachymyrmex cornetzi make novel cyclic depsipeptide compounds called gerumycins, while a mutualist strain isolated from derived Acromyrmex octospinosus makes an unusual polyene antifungal called nystatin P1. The novelty of these antimicrobials suggests there is merit in exploring secondary metabolites of Pseudonocardia on a genome-wide scale. Here, we report a genomic analysis of the Pseudonocardia phylotypes Ps1 and Ps2 that are consistently associated with Acromyrmex ants collected in Gamboa, Panama. These were previously distinguished solely on the basis of 16S rRNA gene sequencing but genome sequencing of five Ps1 and five Ps2 strains revealed that the phylotypes are distinct species and each encodes between 11 and 15 secondary metabolite biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs). There are signature BGCs for Ps1 and Ps2 strains and some that are conserved in both. Ps1 strains all contain BGCs encoding nystatin P1-like antifungals, while the Ps2 strains encode novel nystatin-like molecules. Strains show variations in the arrangement of these BGCs that resemble those seen in gerumycin gene clusters. Genome analyses and invasion assays support our hypothesis that vertically transmitted Ps1 and Ps2 strains have antibacterial activity that could help shape the cuticular microbiome. Thus, our work defines the Pseudonocardia species associated with Acromyrmex ants and supports the hypothesis

  10. Army ants: an evolutionary bestseller?

    PubMed

    Berghoff, Stefanie M

    2003-09-02

    Army ants are characterized by a complex combination of behavioral and morphological traits. Molecular data now indicate that army ant behavior has a unique evolutionary origin and has been conserved for over more than 100 million years.

  11. Geographical Distribution Patterns and Niche Modeling of the Iconic Leafcutter Ant Acromyrmex striatus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Simões-Gomes, Flávia Carolina; Cardoso, Danon Clemes; Cristiano, Maykon Passos

    2017-01-01

    Ants are considered one of the most successful groups in the planet's evolutionary history. Among them highlights the fungus-farming ants of the genera Atta and Acromyrmex that occur throughout most of the Americas. Within the Acromyrmex genus, the species A. striatus distinguishes from other Acromyrmex species as its morphology and karyotype differ from its congeners. This species is found in open environments of dry climate in the southern States of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay; however, little is known about the current distribution of the species. This article aimed to investigate the current distribution of the species by compiling its known distribution and discussing its distributional range. To achieve this, published and unpublished data obtained through a literature search and active collections in various locations were compiled. Published and unpublished data revealed that 386 colonies were recorded, distributed across four countries where its occurrence is known. Environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, soil type and vegetation, as well as historical geological and climate events that have modified Earth's surface may have influenced species distribution patterns. In the Neotropics, the environmental factors that most impacted the distribution of species were the glaciation periods that occurred in the Quaternary, leading to a great migratory process. These factors may have contributed to the current geographical distribution of A. striatus.

  12. Some correlations between the foraging behavior of common nighthawks, Cbordeiles minor (Forester), and the swarming behavior of two species of ants, Atta texana (Buckley) and Iridomyrmex pruinosis (Roger)

    Treesearch

    Stuart L. Warter; John C. Moser; Murray S. Blum

    1962-01-01

    At about 5:30 AM, may 24, 1961, four Common Nighthawks, Chordeiles minor, were collected from a group of nearly a dozen feeding at low level along a roadside in Rapides Parish, west of Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon subsequent examination of the distended stomachs of these birds, it was found that approximately 70% of the contents consisted of winged...

  13. Ants: the supreme soil manipulators

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  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. 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…

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. The Dynamics of Foraging Ants

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Baxter, G. William

    2009-03-01

    We experimentally study the foraging of small black ants, Formicinae lasius flavus, in order to describe their foraging behavior mathematically. Individual ants are allowed to forage on a two-dimensional surface in the absence of any food sources. The position of the ant as a function of time is determined using a high-resolution digital camera. Analysis of the average square displacements of many ants suggests that the foraging strategy is a non-reversing random walk. Moreover, the ants do not retrace their steps to return home but instead continue the random walk until it brings them back near their starting point.

  20. Ants and the fossil record.

    PubMed

    LaPolla, John S; Dlussky, Gennady M; Perrichot, Vincent

    2013-01-01

    The dominance of ants in the terrestrial biosphere has few equals among animals today, but this was not always the case. The oldest ants appear in the fossil record 100 million years ago, but given the scarcity of their fossils, it is presumed they were relatively minor components of Mesozoic insect life. The ant fossil record consists of two primary types of fossils, each with inherent biases: as imprints in rock and as inclusions in fossilized resins (amber). New imaging technology allows ancient ant fossils to be examined in ways never before possible. This is particularly helpful because it can be difficult to distinguish true ants from non-ants in Mesozoic fossils. Fossil discoveries continue to inform our understanding of ancient ant morphological diversity, as well as provide insights into their paleobiology.

  1. 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 PAGES

    Aylward, Frank O.; Khadempour, Lily; Tremmel, Daniel M.; ...

    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

  2. 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

  3. 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

    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.

  4. 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

  5. Distributed nestmate recognition in ants.

    PubMed

    Esponda, Fernando; Gordon, Deborah M

    2015-05-07

    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.

  6. 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

  7. "Ant-egg" cataract revisited.

    PubMed

    Clemmensen, Kåre; Enghild, Jan J; Ivarsen, Anders; Riise, Ruth; Vorum, Henrik; Heegaard, Steffen

    2017-01-01

    Hereditary congenital cataract varies immensely concerning location and form of the lens opacities. A specific and very rare phenotype is called "ant-egg" cataract first described in 1900. "Ant-eggs" have previously been examined using light microscopy, backscattered electron imaging and X-ray scans and electron microscopy. The purpose of this study was to further characterize "ant-egg" cataract using modern technology and display the history of the "ant-eggs" after cataract extraction. "Ant-eggs" were examined using Heidelberg SPECTRALIS Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)(Heidelberg Engineering, Heidelberg, Germany). Ten "ant-eggs" were extracted; four of these as well as control tissue were analyzed by mass spectrometry (AB Sciex). Proteins were identified and their approximate abundances were determined. Immunohistochemical staining was carried out on the remaining "ant-eggs" for cytokeratin and S100. In anterior OCT-images, the "ant-egg" structures are localized on the iris. Comparative pictures showed that they stayed in the same location for more than 45 years. Mass spectrometry of "ant-eggs" yielded a proteome of 56 different proteins. Eighteen of the 56 "ant-egg" proteins (32 %) were neither present in our controls nor in a known fetal lens proteome. Among these were cytokeratin and Matrix-Gla protein. Immunohistochemical reactions were positive for cytokeratin and S100. This study demonstrates the previously unknown protein composition of the "ant-egg" structures in "ant-egg" cataract. Eighteen of these proteins are not natively found in the human lens. Moreover, "ant-eggs" do not vary over time, after cataract extraction, regarding size and location.

  8. A case of ant anaphylaxis.

    PubMed

    Mehr, Sam; Brown, Simon

    2012-03-01

    A four-year-old girl developed anaphylaxis following ant stings at her parent's property in country New South Wales. The offending insect was identified by an entomologist as the green head ant. Ant sting anaphylactic reactions in Australia, the importance of identifying the offending insect following sting anaphylaxis and the signs of insect sting anaphylaxis are further discussed. © 2010 The Authors. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health © 2010 Paediatrics and Child Health Division (Royal Australasian College of Physicians).

  9. 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.

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

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Nesting biology and fungiculture of the fungus-growing ant, Mycetagroicus cerradensis: new light on the origin of higher attine agriculture.

    PubMed

    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.

  15. Enhanced generation of A:T-->T:A transversions in a recA730 lexA51(Def) mutant of Escherichia coli.

    PubMed

    Watanabe-Akanuma, M; Woodgate, R; Ohta, T

    1997-01-03

    RecA730 belongs to a class of mutant RecA protein that is often referred to as RecA*, since it is constitutively activated for coprotease functions in the absence of exogenous DNA-damage. Escherichia coli strains carrying recA730 (or other recA* alleles) exhibit dramatic increases in SOS-dependent spontaneous mutator activity. We have analyzed the specificity of this mutator phenotype by employing F'-plasmids carrying a set of mutant lacZ genes that can individually detect two types of transitions, four types of transversions, and four kinds of specific frameshift events. Analysis revealed that most of the spontaneous mutagenesis in a recA730 lexA51(Def) strain (which expresses derepressed levels of all LexA-regulated proteins) can be attributed to a specific increase in A:T-->T:A, A:T-->C:G and G:C-->T:A transversions, with the A:T-->T:A transversions occurring most frequently. These transversion events were completely abolished in a delta umuDC strain, indicating that the functionally active UmuD'C proteins are normally required for their generation. The spectrum obtained was similar to that of strains with a defect in the epsilon (3'-->5' proofreading) subunit of DNA polymerase III. Such an observation raises the possibility that the wild-type epsilon protein is in activated in strains expressing the RecA730 and UmuD'C proteins.

  16. Exploitation and interference competition between the invasive Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, and native ant species.

    PubMed

    Human, Kathleen G; Gordon, Deborah M

    1996-02-01

    Interactions between the invasive Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, and native ant species were studied in a 450-ha biological reserve in northern California. Along the edges of the invasion, the presence of Argentine ants significantly reduced the foraging success of native ant species, and vice versa. Argentine ants were consistently better than native ants at exploiting food sources: Argentine ants found and recruited to bait more consistently and in higher numbers than native ant species, and they foraged for longer periods throughout the day. Native ants and Argentine ants frequently fought when they recruited to the same bait, and native ant species were displaced from bait during 60% of these encounters. In introduction experiments, Argentine ants interfered with the foraging of native ant species, and prevented the establishment of new colonies of native ant species by preying upon winged native ant queens. The Argentine ants' range within the preserve expanded by 12 ha between May 1993 and May 1994, and 13 between September 1993 and September 1994, with a corresponding reduction of the range of native ant species. Although some native ants persist locally at the edges of the invasion of Argentine ants, most eventually disappear from invaded areas. Both interference and exploitation competition appear to be important in the displacement of native ant species from areas invaded by Argentine ants.

  17. FORMIDABEL: The Belgian Ants Database

    PubMed Central

    Brosens, Dimitri; Vankerkhoven, François; Ignace, David; Wegnez, Philippe; Noé, Nicolas; Heughebaert, André; Bortels, Jeannine; Dekoninck, Wouter

    2013-01-01

    Abstract FORMIDABEL is a database of Belgian Ants containing more than 27.000 occurrence records. These records originate from collections, field sampling and literature. The database gives information on 76 native and 9 introduced ant species found in Belgium. The collection records originated mainly from the ants collection in Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS), the ‘Gaspar’ Ants collection in Gembloux and the zoological collection of the University of Liège (ULG). The oldest occurrences date back from May 1866, the most recent refer to August 2012. FORMIDABEL is a work in progress and the database is updated twice a year. The latest version of the dataset is publicly and freely accessible through this url: http://ipt.biodiversity.be/resource.do?r=formidabel. The dataset is also retrievable via the GBIF data portal through this link: http://data.gbif.org/datasets/resource/14697 A dedicated geo-portal, developed by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform is accessible at: http://www.formicidae-atlas.be Purpose: FORMIDABEL is a joint cooperation of the Flemish ants working group “Polyergus” (http://formicidae.be) and the Wallonian ants working group “FourmisWalBru” (http://fourmiswalbru.be). The original database was created in 2002 in the context of the preliminary red data book of Flemish Ants (Dekoninck et al. 2003). Later, in 2005, data from the Southern part of Belgium; Wallonia and Brussels were added. In 2012 this dataset was again updated for the creation of the first Belgian Ants Atlas (Figure 1) (Dekoninck et al. 2012). The main purpose of this atlas was to generate maps for all outdoor-living ant species in Belgium using an overlay of the standard Belgian ecoregions. By using this overlay for most species, we can discern a clear and often restricted distribution pattern in Belgium, mainly based on vegetation and soil types. PMID:23794918

  18. Imported fire ants in the southeast

    Treesearch

    David F. Williams

    1998-01-01

    Two species of imported fire ants were introduced into the U.S. at Mobile, Alabama. The black imported fire ant, Solenopsis richteri Forel, was introduced around the early 1900's while the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren entered in the late 1930' or early 1940's. The red imported fire ant is the most...

  19. 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.

  20. Neuroretinitis following bull ant sting

    PubMed Central

    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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

    PubMed Central

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

    2015-01-01

    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

  4. 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

  5. Army Ants as Research and Collection Tools

    PubMed Central

    Smith, Adrian A.; Haight, Kevin L.

    2008-01-01

    Ants that fall prey to the raids of army ants commonly respond by evacuating their nests. This documented behavior has been underexploited by researchers as an efficient research tool. This study focuses on the evacuation response of the southwestern desert ant Aphaenogaster cockerelli André (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) to the army ant Newamyrmex nigrescens Cresson. It is shown that army ants can be used to collect mature colonies of ants. The applicability of this tool to ecologically meaningful areas of research is discussed. PMID:20302457

  6. Ants medicate to fight disease.

    PubMed

    Bos, Nick; Sundström, Liselotte; Fuchs, Siiri; Freitak, Dalial

    2015-11-01

    Parasites are ubiquitous, and the ability to defend against these is of paramount importance. One way to fight diseases is self-medication, which occurs when an organism consumes biologically active compounds to clear, inhibit, or alleviate disease symptoms. Here, we show for the first time that ants selectively consume harmful substances (reactive oxygen species, ROS) upon exposure to a fungal pathogen, yet avoid these in the absence of infection. This increased intake of ROS, while harmful to healthy ants, leads to higher survival of exposed ants. The fact that ingestion of this substance carries a fitness cost in the absence of pathogens rules out compensatory diet choice as the mechanism, and provides evidence that social insects medicate themselves against fungal infection, using a substance that carries a fitness cost to uninfected individuals.

  7. 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.

  8. Ant colony optimization: Introduction and recent trends

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Blum, Christian

    2005-12-01

    Ant colony optimization is a technique for optimization that was introduced in the early 1990's. The inspiring source of ant colony optimization is the foraging behavior of real ant colonies. This behavior is exploited in artificial ant colonies for the search of approximate solutions to discrete optimization problems, to continuous optimization problems, and to important problems in telecommunications, such as routing and load balancing. First, we deal with the biological inspiration of ant colony optimization algorithms. We show how this biological inspiration can be transfered into an algorithm for discrete optimization. Then, we outline ant colony optimization in more general terms in the context of discrete optimization, and present some of the nowadays best-performing ant colony optimization variants. After summarizing some important theoretical results, we demonstrate how ant colony optimization can be applied to continuous optimization problems. Finally, we provide examples of an interesting recent research direction: The hybridization with more classical techniques from artificial intelligence and operations research.

  9. Ant opsins: sequences from the Saharan silver ant and the carpenter ant.

    PubMed

    Popp, M P; Grisshammer, R; Hargrave, P A; Smith, W C

    1996-03-01

    cDNA clones encoding opsins from compound eyes of carpenter ant, Camponotus abdominalis, and Saharan silver ant, Cataglyphis bombycina, were isolated from cDNA libraries. The opsin cDNAs from each species code for deduced proteins with 378 amino acids which are 92% identical. Of the 30 amino acid differences between the two proteins, 13 are non-conservative. Eight of these non-conservative substitutions are within the membrane spanning domain. The presence of a potential Schiff-base counterion in helix III in both species suggests that these opsins are the protein moiety of the visible range pigments. When compared to all known opsins, these opsins are most similar to the opsin from preying mantis (76% identity at the amino acid level). Phyletic comparisons group the two ant opsins with the other arthropod long wavelength opsins.

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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…

  13. 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…

  14. Raves & rants about invasive crazy ants

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  15. Active anting in the Puerto Rican tanager

    USGS Publications Warehouse

    King, W.B.; Kepler, C.B.

    1970-01-01

    Anting, a bird’s intentional exposure of its body surface to chemical substances secreted by ants or other agents, has been recorded in over 20 species of birds of 40 families, mostly within the order Passeriformes. Our observations of anting in the Puerto Rico tanager (Neospingus speculiferus) extend the phenomenon to a new genus and the 14th species of the Thraupidae.

  16. 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…

  17. 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…

  18. Bait development for Tawny Crazy Ants

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    The tawny crazy ant, Nylanderia fulva, is an invasive ant from South America that is spreading in the southern USA. As of December 2015, N. fulva was reported from at least 85 counties or parishes primarily among all the gulf coast states. In addition this ant is found on St Croix in the U.S Virgi...

  19. Optimal cue integration in ants

    PubMed Central

    Wystrach, Antoine; Mangan, Michael; Webb, Barbara

    2015-01-01

    In situations with redundant or competing sensory information, humans have been shown to perform cue integration, weighting different cues according to their certainty in a quantifiably optimal manner. Ants have been shown to merge the directional information available from their path integration (PI) and visual memory, but as yet it is not clear that they do so in a way that reflects the relative certainty of the cues. In this study, we manipulate the variance of the PI home vector by allowing ants (Cataglyphis velox) to run different distances and testing their directional choice when the PI vector direction is put in competition with visual memory. Ants show progressively stronger weighting of their PI direction as PI length increases. The weighting is quantitatively predicted by modelling the expected directional variance of home vectors of different lengths and assuming optimal cue integration. However, a subsequent experiment suggests ants may not actually compute an internal estimate of the PI certainty, but are using the PI home vector length as a proxy. PMID:26400741

  20. Ant Ecdysteroid Extraction and Radioimmunoassay

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  1. Ants, Wasps, and Bees (Hymenoptera)

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  2. Optimal cue integration in ants.

    PubMed

    Wystrach, Antoine; Mangan, Michael; Webb, Barbara

    2015-10-07

    In situations with redundant or competing sensory information, humans have been shown to perform cue integration, weighting different cues according to their certainty in a quantifiably optimal manner. Ants have been shown to merge the directional information available from their path integration (PI) and visual memory, but as yet it is not clear that they do so in a way that reflects the relative certainty of the cues. In this study, we manipulate the variance of the PI home vector by allowing ants (Cataglyphis velox) to run different distances and testing their directional choice when the PI vector direction is put in competition with visual memory. Ants show progressively stronger weighting of their PI direction as PI length increases. The weighting is quantitatively predicted by modelling the expected directional variance of home vectors of different lengths and assuming optimal cue integration. However, a subsequent experiment suggests ants may not actually compute an internal estimate of the PI certainty, but are using the PI home vector length as a proxy.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. Quantifying ant activity using vibration measurements.

    PubMed

    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.

  6. 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

  7. Introduced fire ants can exclude native ants from critical mutualist-provided resources.

    PubMed

    Wilder, Shawn M; Barnum, Thomas R; Holway, David A; Suarez, Andrew V; Eubanks, Micky D

    2013-05-01

    Animals frequently experience resource imbalances in nature. For ants, one resource that may be particularly valuable for both introduced and native species is high-carbohydrate honeydew from hemipteran mutualists. We conducted field and laboratory experiments: (1) to test if red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) competed with native ants for access to mutualisms with aphids, and (2) to quantify the effects of aphid honeydew presence or absence on colony growth of native ants. We focused on native dolichoderine ants (Formicidae, Dolichoderinae) because they are abundant ants that have omnivorous diets that frequently include mutualist-provided carbohydrates. At two sites in the southeastern US, native dolichoderine ants were far less frequent, and fire ants more frequent, at carbohydrate baits than would be expected based on their frequency in pitfall traps. A field experiment confirmed that a native ant species, Dorymyrmex bureni, was only found tending aphids when populations of S. invicta were suppressed. In the laboratory, colonies of native dolichoderine ants with access to both honeydew and insect prey had twice as many workers and over twice as much brood compared to colonies fed only ad libitum insect prey. Our results provide the first experimental evidence that introduced ants compete for access to mutualist-provided carbohydrates with native ants and that these carbohydrates represent critical resources for both introduced and native ants. These results challenge traditional paradigms of arthropod and ant nutrition and contribute to growing evidence of the importance of nutrition in mediating ecological interactions.

  8. 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.

  9. Ants on plants: a meta-analysis of the role of ants as plant biotic defenses.

    PubMed

    Rosumek, Felix B; Silveira, Fernando A O; de S Neves, Frederico; de U Barbosa, Newton P; Diniz, Livia; Oki, Yumi; Pezzini, Flavia; Fernandes, G Wilson; Cornelissen, Tatiana

    2009-06-01

    We reviewed the evidence on the role of ants as plant biotic defenses, by conducting meta-analyses for the effects of experimental removal of ants on plant herbivory and fitness with data pooled from 81 studies. Effects reviewed were plant herbivory, herbivore abundance, hemipteran abundance, predator abundance, plant biomass and reproduction in studies where ants were experimentally removed (n = 273 independent comparisons). Ant removal exhibited strong effects on herbivory rates, as plants without ants suffered almost twice as much damage and exhibited 50% more herbivores than plants with ants. Ants also influenced several parameters of plant fitness, as plants without ants suffered a reduction in biomass (-23.7%), leaf production (-51.8%), and reproduction (-24.3%). Effects were much stronger in tropical regions compared to temperate ones. Tropical plants suffered almost threefold higher herbivore damage than plants from temperate regions and exhibited three times more herbivores. Ant removal in tropical plants resulted in a decrease in plant fitness of about 59%, whereas in temperate plants this reduction was not statistically significant. Ant removal effects were also more important in obligate ant-plants (=myrmecophytes) compared to plants exhibiting facultative relationships with hemiptera or those plants with extrafloral nectaries and food bodies. When only tropical plants were considered and the strength of the association between ants and plants taken into account, plants with obligate association with ants exhibited almost four times higher herbivory compared to plants with facultative associations with ants, but similar reductions in plant reproduction. The removal of a single ant species increased plant herbivory by almost three times compared to the removal of several ant species. Altogether, these results suggest that ants do act as plant biotic defenses, but the effects of their presence are more pronounced in tropical systems, especially in

  10. 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.

  11. Usefulness of fire ant genetics in insecticide efficacy trials

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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...

  12. Microorganisms transported by ants induce changes in floral nectar composition of an ant-pollinated plant.

    PubMed

    de Vega, Clara; Herrera, Carlos M

    2013-04-01

    Interactions between plants and ants abound in nature and have significant consequences for ecosystem functioning. Recently, it has been suggested that nectar-foraging ants transport microorganisms to flowers; more specifically, they transport yeasts, which can potentially consume sugars and alter nectar composition. Therefore, ants could indirectly change nectar sugar profile, an important floral feature involved in the plant-pollinator mutualism. But this novel role for ants has never been tested. We here investigate the effects of nectarivorous ants and their associated yeasts on the floral nectar sugar composition of an ant-pollinated plant. Differences in the nectar sugar composition of ant-excluded and ant-visited flowers were examined in 278 samples by using high-performance liquid-chromatography. The importance of the genetic identity and density of ant-transported basidiomycetous and ascomycetous yeasts on the variation of nectar traits was also evaluated. Ant visitation had significant effects on nectar sugar composition. The nectar of ant-visited flowers contained significantly more fructose, more glucose, and less sucrose than the nectar of ant-excluded flowers, but these effects were context dependent. Nectar changes were correlated with the density of yeast cells in nectar. The magnitude of the effects of ant-transported ascomycetes was much higher than that of basiodiomycetes. Ants and their associated yeasts induce changes in nectar sugar traits, reducing the chemical control of the plant over this important floral trait. The potential relevance of this new role for ants as indirect nectar modifiers is a rich topic for future research into the ecology of ant-flower interactions.

  13. Path integration in desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis

    PubMed Central

    Müller, Martin; Wehner, Rüdiger

    1988-01-01

    Foraging desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, continually keep track of their own posotions relative to home— i.e., integrate their tortuous outbound routes and return home along straight (inbound) routes. By experimentally manipulating the ants' outbound trajectories we show that the ants solve this path integration problem not by performing a true vector summation (as a human navigator does) but by employing a computationally simple approximation. This approximation is characterized by small, but systematic, navigational errors that helped us elucidate the ant's way of computing its mean home vector. PMID:16593958

  14. Major evolutionary transitions in ant agriculture.

    PubMed

    Schultz, Ted R; Brady, Seán G

    2008-04-08

    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 approximately 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 ( approximately 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. Conflict resolution in an ant-plant interaction: Acacia constricta traits reduce ant costs to reproduction.

    PubMed

    Nicklen, E Fleur; Wagner, Diane

    2006-05-01

    Many plant species attract ants onto their foliage with food rewards or nesting space. However, ants can interfere with plant reproduction when they visit flowers. This study tests whether Acacia constricta separates visiting ant species temporally or spatially from newly opened inflorescences and pollinators. The diurnal activity patterns of ants and A. constricta pollinators peaked at different times of day, and the activity of pollinators followed the daily dehiscence of A. constricta inflorescences. In addition to being largely temporally separated, ants rarely visited open inflorescences. A floral ant repellent contributes to the spatial separation of ants and inflorescences. In a field experiment, ants of four species were given equal access to inflorescences in different developmental stages. On average, the frequency with which ants made initial, antennal contact with the floral stages did not differ, but ants significantly avoided secondary contact with newly opened inflorescences relative to buds and old inflorescences, and old inflorescences relative to buds. Ants also avoided contact with pollen alone, indicating that pollen is at least one source of the repellent. The results suggest A. constricta has effectively resolved the potential conflict between visiting ants and plant reproduction.

  18. 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.

  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. 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

  1. 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

    2016-01-20

    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.

  2. Improving Emergency Management by Modeling Ant Colonies

    DTIC Science & Technology

    2015-03-01

    Charles D. Michener and Mary H. Michener, “American Social Insects: A Book About Bees, Ants, Wasps, and Termites ” (New York: D Van Nostrand, 1951...no. 2 (1978): 183–216. Michener, Charles D. and Mary H. Michener. American Social Insects: A Book About Bees, Ants, Wasps, and Termites . New York

  3. Neuropeptidomics of the carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus.

    PubMed

    Schmitt, Franziska; Vanselow, Jens T; Schlosser, Andreas; Kahnt, Jörg; Rössler, Wolfgang; Wegener, Christian

    2015-03-06

    Ants show a rich behavioral repertoire and a highly complex organization, which have been attracting behavioral and sociobiological researchers for a long time. The neuronal underpinnings of ant behavior and social organization are, however, much less understood. Neuropeptides are key signals that orchestrate animal behavior and physiology, and it is thus feasible to assume that they play an important role also for the social constitution of ants. Despite the availability of different ant genomes and in silico prediction of ant neuropeptides, a comprehensive biochemical survey of the neuropeptidergic communication possibilities of ants is missing. We therefore combined different mass spectrometric methods to characterize the neuropeptidome of the adult carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus. We also characterized the local neuropeptide complement in different parts of the nervous and neuroendocrine system, including the antennal and optic lobes. Our analysis identifies 39 neuropeptides encoded by different prepropeptide genes, and in silico predicts new prepropeptide genes encoding CAPA peptides, CNMamide as well as homologues of the honey bee IDLSRFYGHFNT- and ITGQGNRIF-containing peptides. Our data provides basic information about the identity and localization of neuropeptides that is required to anatomically and functionally address the role and significance of neuropeptides in ant behavior and physiology.

  4. 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

  5. Urban Pest Management of Ants in California

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    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 ...

  6. Extrafloral nectar fuels ant life in deserts.

    PubMed

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

    2014-11-07

    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. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.

  7. Hey! A Fire Ant Stung Me!

    MedlinePlus

    ... Emergency Room? What Happens in the Operating Room? Hey! A Fire Ant Stung Me! KidsHealth > For Kids > Hey! A Fire Ant Stung Me! Print A A ... For Kids For Parents MORE ON THIS TOPIC Hey! A Bee Stung Me! Hey! A Scorpion Stung ...

  8. The Use of Ants in Field Work.

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Skinner, Gary J.

    1988-01-01

    Provided is a brief description of the biology and taxonomy of British ants. Suggested are a range of exercises which could be used for class or project work in secondary biology classes. Illustrates many ecological, behavioral and physiological points regarding the species of ants found in Great Britain. (Author/CW)

  9. 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.

  10. Ant aggression and evolutionary stability in plant-ant and plant-pollinator mutualistic interactions.

    PubMed

    Oña, L; Lachmann, M

    2011-03-01

    Mutualistic partners derive a benefit from their interaction, but this benefit can come at a cost. This is the case for plant-ant and plant-pollinator mutualistic associations. In exchange for protection from herbivores provided by the resident ants, plants supply various kinds of resources or nests to the ants. Most ant-myrmecophyte mutualisms are horizontally transmitted, and therefore, partners share an interest in growth but not in reproduction. This lack of alignment in fitness interests between plants and ants drives a conflict between them: ants can attack pollinators that cross-fertilize the host plants. Using a mathematical model, we define a threshold in ant aggressiveness determining pollinator survival or elimination on the host plant. In our model we observed that, all else being equal, facultative interactions result in pollinator extinction for lower levels of ant aggressiveness than obligatory interactions. We propose that the capacity to discriminate pollinators from herbivores should not often evolve in ants, and when it does it will be when the plants exhibit limited dispersal in an environment that is not seed saturated so that each seed produced can effectively generate a new offspring or if ants acquire an extra benefit from pollination (e.g. if ants eat fruit). We suggest specific mutualism examples where these hypotheses can be tested empirically. © 2010 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2010 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.

  11. Effects of aromatic cedar mulch on the Argentine ant and the odorous house ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

    PubMed

    Meissner, H E; Silverman, J

    2001-12-01

    In laboratory studies, the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile (Mayr), and the odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile (Say), avoided aromatic cedar mulch as a nesting substrate. Both ant species were killed when confined with fresh aromatic cedar mulch in sealed containers. However, when confined with cedar mulch that had been aged outdoors for up to 140 d, mortality of L. humile was complete regardless of mulch age, whereas T. sessile mortality declined significantly over the mulch-aging period. Argentine ant susceptibility to aromatic cedar mulch was also greater than that of the odorous house ant when colonies were restricted to mulch in open trays. In addition, commercial aromatic cedar oil was lethal to both ant species. Our results suggest that aromatic cedar mulch may serve as an effective component of a comprehensive urban ant management program.

  12. Persistence of pollination mutualisms in the presence of ants.

    PubMed

    Wang, Yuanshi; Wang, Shikun

    2015-01-01

    This paper considers plant-pollinator-ant systems in which the plant-pollinator interaction is mutualistic but ants have both positive and negative effects on plants. The ants also interfere with pollinators by preventing them from accessing plants. While a Beddington-DeAngelis (BD) formula can describe the plant-pollinator interaction, the formula is extended in this paper to characterize the pollination mutualism under the ant interference. Then, a plant-pollinator-ant system with the extended BD functional response is discussed, and global dynamics of the model demonstrate the mechanisms by which pollination mutualism can persist in the presence of ants. When the ant interference is strong, it can result in extinction of pollinators. Moreover, if the ants depend on pollination mutualism for survival, the strong interference could drive pollinators into extinction, which consequently lead to extinction of the ants themselves. When the ant interference is weak, a cooperation between plant-ant and plant-pollinator mutualisms could occur, which promotes survival of both ants and pollinators, especially in the case that ants (respectively, pollinators) cannot survive in the absence of pollinators (respectively, ants). Even when the level of ant interference remains invariant, varying ants' negative effect on plants can result in survival/extinction of both ants and pollinators. Therefore, our results provide an explanation for the persistence of pollination mutualism when there exist ants.

  13. Microclimatic conditions of Lasius flavus ant mounds

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Véle, Adam; Holuša, Jaroslav

    2017-05-01

    Like other organisms, ants require suitable microclimatic conditions for their development. Thus, ant species inhabiting colder climates build nest mounds that rise above the soil surface, presumably to obtain heating from solar radiation. Although some ant species construct mounds of organic materials, which generate substantial heat due to microbial metabolism, Lasius flavus mounds consists mostly of soil, not organic material. The use of artificial shading in the current study demonstrated that L. flavus depends on direct solar radiation to regulate the temperature in its mound-like nests. Temperatures were much lower in shaded mounds than in unshaded mounds and were likely low enough in shaded mounds to reduce ant development and reproduction. In areas where L. flavus and similar ants are undesirable, they might be managed by shading.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. Microclimatic conditions of Lasius flavus ant mounds.

    PubMed

    Véle, Adam; Holuša, Jaroslav

    2016-11-23

    Like other organisms, ants require suitable microclimatic conditions for their development. Thus, ant species inhabiting colder climates build nest mounds that rise above the soil surface, presumably to obtain heating from solar radiation. Although some ant species construct mounds of organic materials, which generate substantial heat due to microbial metabolism, Lasius flavus mounds consists mostly of soil, not organic material. The use of artificial shading in the current study demonstrated that L. flavus depends on direct solar radiation to regulate the temperature in its mound-like nests. Temperatures were much lower in shaded mounds than in unshaded mounds and were likely low enough in shaded mounds to reduce ant development and reproduction. In areas where L. flavus and similar ants are undesirable, they might be managed by shading.

  18. Microclimatic conditions of Lasius flavus ant mounds

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Véle, Adam; Holuša, Jaroslav

    2016-11-01

    Like other organisms, ants require suitable microclimatic conditions for their development. Thus, ant species inhabiting colder climates build nest mounds that rise above the soil surface, presumably to obtain heating from solar radiation. Although some ant species construct mounds of organic materials, which generate substantial heat due to microbial metabolism, Lasius flavus mounds consists mostly of soil, not organic material. The use of artificial shading in the current study demonstrated that L. flavus depends on direct solar radiation to regulate the temperature in its mound-like nests. Temperatures were much lower in shaded mounds than in unshaded mounds and were likely low enough in shaded mounds to reduce ant development and reproduction. In areas where L. flavus and similar ants are undesirable, they might be managed by shading.

  19. Ants defend aphids against lethal disease

    PubMed Central

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

    2010-01-01

    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

  20. [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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Ant-lepidopteran associations along African forest edges.

    PubMed

    Dejean, Alain; Azémar, Frédéric; Libert, Michel; Compin, Arthur; Hérault, Bruno; Orivel, Jérôme; Bouyer, Thierry; Corbara, Bruno

    2017-02-01

    Working along forest edges, we aimed to determine how some caterpillars can co-exist with territorially dominant arboreal ants (TDAAs) in tropical Africa. We recorded caterpillars from 22 lepidopteran species living in the presence of five TDAA species. Among the defoliator and/or nectarivorous caterpillars that live on tree foliage, the Pyralidae and Nymphalidae use their silk to protect themselves from ant attacks. The Notodontidae and lycaenid Polyommatinae and Theclinae live in direct contact with ants; the Theclinae even reward ants with abundant secretions from their Newcomer gland. Lichen feeders (lycaenid; Poritiinae), protected by long bristles, also live among ants. Some lycaenid Miletinae caterpillars feed on ant-attended membracids, including in the shelters where the ants attend them; Lachnocnema caterpillars use their forelegs to obtain trophallaxis from their host ants. Caterpillars from other species live inside weaver ant nests. Those of the genus Euliphyra (Miletinae) feed on ant prey and brood and can obtain trophallaxis, while those from an Eberidae species only prey on host ant eggs. Eublemma albifascia (Erebidae) caterpillars use their thoracic legs to obtain trophallaxis and trophic eggs from ants. Through transfer bioassays of last instars, we noted that herbivorous caterpillars living in contact with ants were always accepted by alien conspecific ants; this is likely due to an intrinsic appeasing odor. Yet, caterpillars living in ant shelters or ant nests probably acquire cues from their host colonies because they were considered aliens and killed. We conclude that co-evolution with ants occurred similarly in the Heterocera and Rhopalocera.

  4. Ant-lepidopteran associations along African forest edges

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Dejean, Alain; Azémar, Frédéric; Libert, Michel; Compin, Arthur; Hérault, Bruno; Orivel, Jérôme; Bouyer, Thierry; Corbara, Bruno

    2017-02-01

    Working along forest edges, we aimed to determine how some caterpillars can co-exist with territorially dominant arboreal ants (TDAAs) in tropical Africa. We recorded caterpillars from 22 lepidopteran species living in the presence of five TDAA species. Among the defoliator and/or nectarivorous caterpillars that live on tree foliage, the Pyralidae and Nymphalidae use their silk to protect themselves from ant attacks. The Notodontidae and lycaenid Polyommatinae and Theclinae live in direct contact with ants; the Theclinae even reward ants with abundant secretions from their Newcomer gland. Lichen feeders (lycaenid; Poritiinae), protected by long bristles, also live among ants. Some lycaenid Miletinae caterpillars feed on ant-attended membracids, including in the shelters where the ants attend them; Lachnocnema caterpillars use their forelegs to obtain trophallaxis from their host ants. Caterpillars from other species live inside weaver ant nests. Those of the genus Euliphyra (Miletinae) feed on ant prey and brood and can obtain trophallaxis, while those from an Eberidae species only prey on host ant eggs. Eublemma albifascia (Erebidae) caterpillars use their thoracic legs to obtain trophallaxis and trophic eggs from ants. Through transfer bioassays of last instars, we noted that herbivorous caterpillars living in contact with ants were always accepted by alien conspecific ants; this is likely due to an intrinsic appeasing odor. Yet, caterpillars living in ant shelters or ant nests probably acquire cues from their host colonies because they were considered aliens and killed. We conclude that co-evolution with ants occurred similarly in the Heterocera and Rhopalocera.

  5. Harnessing ant defence at fruits reduces bruchid seed predation in a symbiotic ant-plant mutualism.

    PubMed

    Pringle, Elizabeth G

    2014-06-22

    In horizontally transmitted mutualisms, mutualists disperse separately and reassemble in each generation with partners genetically unrelated to those in the previous generation. Because of this, there should be no selection on either partner to enhance the other's reproductive output directly. In symbiotic ant-plant mutualisms, myrmecophytic plants host defensive ant colonies, and ants defend the plants from herbivores. Plants and ants disperse separately, and, although ant defence can indirectly increase plant reproduction by reducing folivory, it is unclear whether ants can also directly increase plant reproduction by defending seeds. The neotropical tree Cordia alliodora hosts colonies of Azteca pittieri ants. The trees produce domatia where ants nest at stem nodes and also at the node between the peduncle and the rachides of the infloresence. Unlike the stem domatia, these reproductive domatia senesce after the tree fruits each year. In this study, I show that the tree's resident ant colony moves into these ephemeral reproductive domatia, where they tend honeydew-producing scale insects and patrol the nearby developing fruits. The presence of ants significantly reduced pre-dispersal seed predation by Amblycerus bruchid beetles, thereby directly increasing plant reproductive output.

  6. Differential Recruitment of Camponotus femoratus (Fabricius) Ants in Response to Ant Garden Herbivory.

    PubMed

    Vicente, R E; Dáttilo, W; Izzo, T J

    2014-12-01

    Although several studies have shown that ants can recognize chemical cues from their host plants in ant-plant systems, it is poorly demonstrated in ant gardens (AGs). In this interaction, ant species constantly interact with various epiphyte species. Therefore, it is possible to expect a convergence of chemical signals released by plants that could be acting to ensure that ants are able to recognize and defend epiphyte species frequently associated with AGs. In this study, it was hypothesized that ants recognize and differentiate among chemical stimuli released by AG epiphytes and non-AG epiphytes. We experimentally simulated leaf herbivore damage on three epiphyte species restricted to AGs and a locally abundant understory herb, Piper hispidum, in order to quantify the number of recruited Camponotus femoratus (Fabricius) defenders. When exposed to the AG epiphytes Peperomia macrostachya and Codonanthe uleana leaves, it was observed that the recruitment of C. femoratus workers was, on average, respectively 556% and 246% higher than control. However, the number of ants recruited by the AG epiphyte Markea longiflora or by the non-AG plant did not differ from paper pieces. This indicated that ants could discern between chemicals released by different plants, suggesting that ants can select better plants. These results can be explained by evolutionary process acting on both ants' capability in discerning plants' chemical compounds (innate attraction) or by ants' learning based on the epiphyte frequency in AGs (individual experience). To disentangle an innate behavior, a product of classical coevolutionary process, from an ant's learned behavior, is a complicated but important subject to understand in the evolution of ant-plant mutualisms.

  7. How to be an ant on figs

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Bain, Anthony; Harrison, Rhett D.; Schatz, Bertrand

    2014-05-01

    Mutualistic interactions are open to exploitation by one or other of the partners and a diversity of other organisms, and hence are best understood as being embedded in a complex network of biotic interactions. Figs participate in an obligate mutualism in that figs are dependent on agaonid fig wasps for pollination and the wasps are dependent on fig ovules for brood sites. Ants are common insect predators and abundant in tropical forests. Ants have been recorded on approximately 11% of fig species, including all six subgenera, and often affect the fig-fig pollinator interaction through their predation of either pollinating and parasitic wasps. On monoecious figs, ants are often associated with hemipterans, whereas in dioecious figs ants predominantly prey on fig wasps. A few fig species are true myrmecophytes, with domatia or food rewards for ants, and in at least one species this is linked to predation of parasitic fig wasps. Ants also play a role in dispersal of fig seeds and may be particularly important for hemi-epiphytic species, which require high quality establishment microsites in the canopy. The intersection between the fig-fig pollinator and ant-plant systems promises to provide fertile ground for understanding mutualistic interactions within the context of complex interaction networks.

  8. The agricultural pathology of ant fungus gardens

    PubMed Central

    Currie, Cameron R.; Mueller, Ulrich G.; Malloch, David

    1999-01-01

    Gardens of fungus-growing ants (Formicidae: Attini) traditionally have been thought to be free of microbial parasites, with the fungal mutualist maintained in nearly pure “monocultures.” We conducted extensive isolations of “alien” (nonmutualistic) fungi from ant gardens of a phylogenetically representative collection of attine ants. Contrary to the long-standing assumption that gardens are maintained free of microbial pathogens and parasites, they are in fact host to specialized parasites that are only known from attine gardens and that are found in most attine nests. These specialized garden parasites, belonging to the microfungus genus Escovopsis (Ascomycota: anamorphic Hypocreales), are horizontally transmitted between colonies. Consistent with theory of virulence evolution under this mode of pathogen transmission, Escovopsis is highly virulent and has the potential for rapid devastation of ant gardens, leading to colony mortality. The specialized parasite Escovopsis is more prevalent in gardens of the more derived ant lineages than in gardens of the more “primitive” (basal) ant lineages. Because fungal cultivars of derived attine lineages are asexual clones of apparently ancient origin whereas cultivars of primitive ant lineages were domesticated relatively recently from free-living sexual stocks, the increased virulence of pathogens associated with ancient asexual cultivars suggests an evolutionary cost to cultivar clonality, perhaps resulting from slower evolutionary rates of cultivars in the coevolutionary race with their pathogens. PMID:10393936

  9. Analysis of acoustic communication by ants.

    PubMed

    Hickling, R; Brown, R L

    2000-10-01

    An analysis is presented of acoustic communication by ants, based on near-field theory and on data obtained from the black imported fire ant Solenopsis richteri and other sources. Generally ant stridulatory sounds are barely audible, but they occur continuously in ant colonies. Because ants appear unresponsive to airborne sound, myrmecologists have concluded that stridulatory signals are transmitted through the substrate. However, transmission through the substrate is unlikely, for reasons given in the paper. Apparently ants communicate mainly through the air, and the acoustic receptors are hairlike sensilla on the antennae that respond to particle sound velocity. This may seem inconsistent with the fact that ants are unresponsive to airborne sound (on a scale of meters), but the inconsistency can be resolved if acoustic communication occurs within the near field, on a scale of about 100 mm. In the near field, the particle sound velocity is significantly enhanced and has a steep gradient. These features can be used to exclude extraneous sound, and to determine the direction and distance of a near-field source. Additionally, we observed that the tracheal air sacs of S. richteri can expand within the gaster, possibly amplifying the radiation of stridulatory sound.

  10. Extrafloral nectar fuels ant life in deserts

    PubMed Central

    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

  11. Pheromone disruption of Argentine ant trail integrity

    USGS Publications Warehouse

    Suckling, D.M.; Peck, R.W.; Manning, L.M.; Stringer, L.D.; Cappadonna, J.; El-Sayed, A. M.

    2008-01-01

    Disruption of Argentine ant trail following and reduced ability to forage (measured by bait location success) was achieved after presentation of an oversupply of trail pheromone, (Z)-9-hexadecenal. Experiments tested single pheromone point sources and dispersion of a formulation in small field plots. Ant walking behavior was recorded and digitized by using video tracking, before and after presentation of trail pheromone. Ants showed changes in three parameters within seconds of treatment: (1) Ants on trails normally showed a unimodal frequency distribution of walking track angles, but this pattern disappeared after presentation of the trail pheromone; (2) ants showed initial high trail integrity on a range of untreated substrates from painted walls to wooden or concrete floors, but this was significantly reduced following presentation of a point source of pheromone; (3) the number of ants in the pheromone-treated area increased over time, as recruitment apparently exceeded departures. To test trail disruption in small outdoor plots, the trail pheromone was formulated with carnuba wax-coated quartz laboratory sand (1 g quartz sand/0.2 g wax/1 mg pheromone). The pheromone formulation, with a half-life of 30 h, was applied by rotary spreader at four rates (0, 2.5, 7.5, and 25 mg pheromone/m2) to 1- and 4-m2 plots in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. Ant counts at bait cards in treated plots were significantly reduced compared to controls on the day of treatment, and there was a significant reduction in ant foraging for 2 days. These results show that trail pheromone disruption of Argentine ants is possible, but a much more durable formulation is needed before nest-level impacts can be expected. ?? 2008 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

  12. Musings on the management of Nylanderia fulva Crazy Ants

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    Nylanderia fulva is an invasive crazy ant that can inundate landscapes and structures. This invasive ant has been called the Caribbean crazy ant in Florida and the Rasberry [sic] crazy ant in Texas. The species was thought to be Nylanderia pubens or Nylanderia near pubens, in Florida and Texas, resp...

  13. Multitasking in a plant-ant interaction: how does Acacia myrtifolia manage both ants and pollinators?

    PubMed

    Martínez-Bauer, Angélica E; Martínez, Gerardo Cerón; Murphy, Daniel J; Burd, Martin

    2015-06-01

    Plant associations with protective ants are widespread among angiosperms, but carry the risk that ants will deter pollinators as well as herbivores. Such conflict, and adaptations to ameliorate or prevent the conflict, have been documented in African and neotropical acacias. Ant-acacia associations occur in Australia, but little is known of their ecology. Moreover, recent phylogenetic evidence indicates that Australian acacias are only distantly related to African and American acacias, providing an intercontinental natural experiment in the management of ant-pollinator conflict. We examined four populations of Acacia myrtifolia over a 400-km environmental gradient in southeastern Australia using ant and pollinator exclusion as well as direct observation of ants and pollinators to assess the potential for ant-pollinator conflict to affect seed set. Native bees were the only group of floral visitors whose visitation rates were a significant predictor of fruiting success, although beetles and wasps may play an important role as "insurance" pollinators. We found no increase in pollinator visitation or fruiting success following ant exclusion, even with large sample sizes and effective exclusion. Because ants are facultative visitors to A. myrtifolia plants, their presence may be insufficient to interfere greatly with floral visitors. It is also likely that the morphological location of extrafloral nectaries tends to draw ants away from reproductive parts, although we commonly observed ants on inflorescences, so the spatial separation is not strict. A. myrtifolia appears to maintain a generalized mutualism over a wide geographic range without the need for elaborate adaptations to resolve ant-pollinator conflict.

  14. Deterministic Ants in Labyrinth — Information Gained by Map Sharing

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Malinowski, Janusz; Kantelhardt, Jan W.; Kułakowski, Krzysztof

    2013-06-01

    A few ant robots are placed in a labyrinth, formed by a square lattice with a small number of corridors removed. Ants move according to a deterministic algorithm designed to explore all corridors. Each ant remembers the shape of corridors which it has visited. Once two ants meet, they share the information acquired. We evaluate how the time of getting a complete information by an ant depends on the number of ants, and how the length known by an ant depends on time. Numerical results are presented in the form of scaling relations.

  15. Evidence that insect herbivores are deterred by ant pheromones.

    PubMed Central

    Offenberg, Joachim; Nielsen, Mogens Gissel; MacIntosh, Donald J; Havanon, Sopon; Aksornkoae, Sanit

    2004-01-01

    It is well documented that ants can protect plants against insect herbivores, but the underlying mechanisms remain almost undocumented. We propose and test the pheromone avoidance hypothesis--an indirect mechanism where insect herbivores are repelled not only by ants but also by ant pheromones. Herbivores subjected to ant predation will experience a selective advantage if they evolve mechanisms enabling them to avoid feeding within ant territories. Such a mechanism could be based on the ability to detect and evade ant pheromones. Field observations and data from the literature showed that the ant Oecophylla smaragdina distributes persistent pheromones throughout its territory. In addition, a laboratory test showed that the beetle Rhyparida wallacei, which this ant preys on, was reluctant to feed on leaves sampled within ant territories compared with leaves sampled outside territories. Thus, this study provides an example of an ant-herbivore system conforming to the pheromone avoidance hypothesis. PMID:15801596

  16. Positive effects of shade and shelter construction by ants on leafhopper-ant mutualism.

    PubMed

    Moya-Raygoza, Gustavo; Larsen, Kirk J

    2008-12-01

    The myrmecophilous five-spotted gamagrass leafhopper, Dalbulus quinquenotatus DeLong and Nault, and its tending ants on gamagrass Tripsacum dactyloides L. were examined to determine the influence of shade and ant-constructed shelters on the population sizes of D. quinquenotatus and ants. Gamagrass plants hosting ants and leafhoppers were exposed to 50, 30, or 0% artificially constructed shade. The greatest numbers of leafhoppers and ants were found on plants that received 50% shade. Shelters made by the ant Solenopsis geminata (F.) contained large numbers of leafhoppers and ants but were found only on T. dactyloides exposed to 50% shade in artificially constructed habitats. Additional sampling was conducted on wild gamagrass plants in the field to explore the presence of ants tending leafhoppers in shelters and to evaluate whether ant-constructed shelters protect leafhopper nymphs from parasitoid wasps. Large aggregations of S. geminata in shelters were also found in natural gamagrass habitats. Leafhopper nymphs living in shelters made by S. geminata may be protected against the dryinid wasp parasitoid Anteon ciudadi Olmi. No sheltered nymphs were parasitized by dryinids, whereas 24% of unsheltered nymphs had dryinid parasitism.

  17. Fire disturbance disrupts an acacia ant-plant mutualism in favor of a subordinate ant species.

    PubMed

    Sensenig, Ryan L; Kimuyu, Duncan K; Ruiz Guajardo, Juan C; Veblen, Kari E; Riginos, Corinna; Young, Truman P

    2017-05-01

    Although disturbance theory has been recognized as a useful framework in examining the stability of ant-plant mutualisms, very few studies have examined the effects of fire disturbance on these mutualisms. In myrmecophyte-dominated savannas, fire and herbivory are key drivers that could influence ant-plant mutualisms by causing complete colony mortality and/or decreasing colony size, which potentially could alter dominance hierarchies if subordinate species are more fire resilient. We used a large-scale, replicated fire experiment to examine long-term effects of fire on acacia-ant community composition. To determine if fire shifted ant occupancy from a competitive dominant to a subordinate ant species, we surveyed the acacia-ant community in 6-7 yr old burn sites and examined how the spatial scale of these burns influenced ant community responses. We then used two short-term fire experiments to explore possible mechanisms for the shifts in community patterns observed. Because survival of ant colonies is largely dependent on their ability to detect and escape an approaching fire, we first tested the evacuation response of all four ant species when exposed to smoke (fire signal). Then to better understand how fire and its interaction with large mammal herbivory affect the density of ants per tree, we quantified ant worker density in small prescribed burns within herbivore exclusion plots. We found clear evidence suggesting that fire disturbance favored the subordinate ant Crematogaster nigriceps more than the dominant and strong mutualist ant C. mimosae, whereby C. nigriceps (1) was the only species to occupy a greater proportion of trees in 6-7 yr old burn sites compared to unburned sites, (2) had higher burn/unburn tree ratios with increasing burn size, and (3) evacuated significantly faster than C. mimosae in the presence of smoke. Fire and herbivory had opposite effects on ant density per meter of branch for both C. nigriceps and C. mimosae, with fire

  18. Mutualism exploitation: predatory drosophilid larvae sugar-trap ants and jeopardize facultative ant-plant mutualism.

    PubMed

    Vidal, Mayra C; Sendoya, Sebastian F; Oliveira, Paulo S

    2016-07-01

    An open question in the evolutionary ecology of ant-plant facultative mutualism is how other members of the associated community can affect the interaction to a point where reciprocal benefits are disrupted. While visiting Qualea grandiflora shrubs to collect sugary rewards at extrafloral nectaries, tropical savanna ants deter herbivores and reduce leaf damage. Here we show that larvae of the fly Rhinoleucophenga myrmecophaga, which develop on extrafloral nectaries, lure potentially mutualistic, nectar-feeding ants and prey on them. Foraging ants spend less time on fly-infested foliage. Field experiments showed that predation (or the threat of predation) on ants by fly larvae produces cascading effects through three trophic levels, resulting in fewer protective ants on leaves, increased numbers of chewing herbivores, and greater leaf damage. These results reveal an undocumented mode of mutualism exploitation by an opportunistic predator at a plant-provided food source, jeopardizing ant-derived protection services to the plant. Our study documents a rather unusual case of predation of adult ants by a dipteran species and demonstrates a top-down trophic cascade within a generalized ant-plant mutualism. © 2016 by the Ecological Society of America.

  19. Fire ants perpetually rebuild sinking towers

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Phonekeo, Sulisay; Mlot, Nathan; Monaenkova, Daria; Hu, David L.; Tovey, Craig

    2017-07-01

    In the aftermath of a flood, fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, cluster into temporary encampments. The encampments can contain hundreds of thousands of ants and reach over 30 ants high. How do ants build such tall structures without being crushed? In this combined experimental and theoretical study, we investigate the shape and rate of construction of ant towers around a central support. The towers are bell shaped, consistent with towers of constant strength such as the Eiffel tower, where each element bears an equal load. However, unlike the Eiffel tower, the ant tower is built through a process of trial and error, whereby failed portions avalanche until the final shape emerges. High-speed and novel X-ray videography reveal that the tower constantly sinks and is rebuilt, reminiscent of large multicellular systems such as human skin. We combine the behavioural rules that produce rafts on water with measurements of adhesion and attachment strength to model the rate of growth of the tower. The model correctly predicts that the growth rate decreases as the support diameter increases. This work may inspire the design of synthetic swarms capable of building in vertical layers.

  20. Congestion and communication in confined ant traffic

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Gravish, Nick; Gold, Gregory; Zangwill, Andrew; Goodisman, Michael A. D.; Goldman, Daniel I.

    2014-03-01

    Many social animals move and communicate within confined spaces. In subterranean fire ants Solenopsis invicta, mobility within crowded nest tunnels is important for resource and information transport. Within confined tunnels, communication and traffic flow are at odds: trafficking ants communicate through tactile interactions while stopped, yet ants that stop to communicate impose physical obstacles on the traffic. We monitor the bi-directional flow of fire ant workers in laboratory tunnels of varied diameter D. The persistence time of communicating ant aggregations, τ, increases approximately linearly with the number of participating ants, n. The sensitivity of traffic flow increases as D decreases and diverges at a minimum diameter, Dc. A cellular automata model incorporating minimal traffic features--excluded volume and communication duration--reproduces features of the experiment. From the model we identify a competition between information transfer and the need to maintain jam-free traffic flow. We show that by balancing information transfer and traffic flow demands, an optimum group strategy exists which maximizes information throughput. We acknowledge funding from NSF PoLS #0957659 and #PHY-1205878.

  1. Toxic industrial deposit remediation by ant activity

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Jilkova, Veronika; Frouz, Jan

    2016-04-01

    Toxic industrial deposits are often contaminated by heavy metals and the substrates have low pH values. In such systems, soil development is thus slowed down by high toxicity and acidic conditions which are unfavourable to soil fauna. Ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) are considered tolerant to heavy metal pollution and are known to increase organic matter content and microbial activity in their nests. Here, we focused on soil remediation caused by three ant species (Formica sanguinea, Lasius niger, and Tetramorium sp.) in an ore-washery sedimentation basin near Chvaletice (Czech Republic). Soil samples were taken from the centre of ant nests and from the nest surroundings (>3 m from nests). Samples were then analyzed for microbial activity and biomass and contents of organic matter and nutrients. As a result, ant species that most influenced soil properties was F. sanguinea as there were higher microbial activity and total nitrogen and ammonia contents in ant nests than in the surrounding soil. We expected such a result because F. sanguinea builds conspicuous large nests and is a carnivorous species that brings substantial amounts of nitrogen in insect prey to their nests. Effects of the other two ant species might be lower because of smaller nests and different feeding habits as they rely mainly on honeydew from aphids or on plant seeds that do not contain much nutrients.

  2. The macroevolutionary dynamics of ant diversification.

    PubMed

    Pie, Marcio R; Tschá, Marcel K

    2009-11-01

    The availability of increasingly comprehensive phylogenies has provided unprecedented opportunities to assess macroevolutionary patterns, yet studies on invertebrate diversification are few. In particular, despite the ecological and evolutionary importance of ants, little is known about their tempo and mode of diversification. Recent advances in ant phylogenetics can now provide a basis for rigorous analyses of the diversification of ant lineages. The goals of the present study are threefold. First, we demonstrate that a hypothesized disproportionate increase in ant diversification during the angiosperm radiation is largely artifactual. Rather, current evidence points to a fairly constant rate of lineage growth during its history. Moreover, an analysis of diversification patterns across the ant phylogeny indicates considerable rate heterogeneity among lineages. Indeed, and contrary to the expectation if lineages had experienced a single rate of lineage increase, we found no correspondence between genus age and diversity. Finally, we demonstrate a statistically significant phylogenetic signal in ant diversification: closely related genera have diversities that are more similar to one another than one would expect by chance. This suggests that the capacity for diversification may be itself a biological trait that evolved during the radiation of the family Formicidae.

  3. Fire ants perpetually rebuild sinking towers

    PubMed Central

    Phonekeo, Sulisay; Mlot, Nathan; Monaenkova, Daria; Tovey, Craig

    2017-01-01

    In the aftermath of a flood, fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, cluster into temporary encampments. The encampments can contain hundreds of thousands of ants and reach over 30 ants high. How do ants build such tall structures without being crushed? In this combined experimental and theoretical study, we investigate the shape and rate of construction of ant towers around a central support. The towers are bell shaped, consistent with towers of constant strength such as the Eiffel tower, where each element bears an equal load. However, unlike the Eiffel tower, the ant tower is built through a process of trial and error, whereby failed portions avalanche until the final shape emerges. High-speed and novel X-ray videography reveal that the tower constantly sinks and is rebuilt, reminiscent of large multicellular systems such as human skin. We combine the behavioural rules that produce rafts on water with measurements of adhesion and attachment strength to model the rate of growth of the tower. The model correctly predicts that the growth rate decreases as the support diameter increases. This work may inspire the design of synthetic swarms capable of building in vertical layers. PMID:28791170

  4. Fire ants perpetually rebuild sinking towers.

    PubMed

    Phonekeo, Sulisay; Mlot, Nathan; Monaenkova, Daria; Hu, David L; Tovey, Craig

    2017-07-01

    In the aftermath of a flood, fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, cluster into temporary encampments. The encampments can contain hundreds of thousands of ants and reach over 30 ants high. How do ants build such tall structures without being crushed? In this combined experimental and theoretical study, we investigate the shape and rate of construction of ant towers around a central support. The towers are bell shaped, consistent with towers of constant strength such as the Eiffel tower, where each element bears an equal load. However, unlike the Eiffel tower, the ant tower is built through a process of trial and error, whereby failed portions avalanche until the final shape emerges. High-speed and novel X-ray videography reveal that the tower constantly sinks and is rebuilt, reminiscent of large multicellular systems such as human skin. We combine the behavioural rules that produce rafts on water with measurements of adhesion and attachment strength to model the rate of growth of the tower. The model correctly predicts that the growth rate decreases as the support diameter increases. This work may inspire the design of synthetic swarms capable of building in vertical layers.

  5. Entangled active matter: From cells to ants

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Hu, D. L.; Phonekeo, S.; Altshuler, E.; Brochard-Wyart, F.

    2016-07-01

    Both cells and ants belong to the broad field of active matter, a novel class of non-equilibrium materials composed of many interacting units that individually consume energy and collectively generate motion or mechanical stresses. However cells and ants differ from fish and birds in that they can support static loads. This is because cells and ants can be entangled, so that individual units are bound by transient links. Entanglement gives cells and ants a set of remarkable properties usually not found together, such as the ability to flow like a fluid, spring back like an elastic solid, and self-heal. In this review, we present the biology, mechanics and dynamics of both entangled cells and ants. We apply concepts from soft matter physics and wetting to characterize these systems as well as to point out their differences, which arise from their differences in size. We hope that our viewpoints will spur further investigations into cells and ants as active materials, and inspire the fabrication of synthetic active matter.

  6. Ants (Formicidae): models for social complexity.

    PubMed

    Smith, Chris R; Dolezal, Adam; Eliyahu, Dorit; Holbrook, C Tate; Gadau, Jürgen

    2009-07-01

    The family Formicidae (ants) is composed of more than 12,000 described species that vary greatly in size, morphology, behavior, life history, ecology, and social organization. Ants occur in most terrestrial habitats and are the dominant animals in many of them. They have been used as models to address fundamental questions in ecology, evolution, behavior, and development. The literature on ants is extensive, and the natural history of many species is known in detail. Phylogenetic relationships for the family, as well as within many subfamilies, are known, enabling comparative studies. Their ease of sampling and ecological variation makes them attractive for studying populations and questions relating to communities. Their sociality and variation in social organization have contributed greatly to an understanding of complex systems, division of labor, and chemical communication. Ants occur in colonies composed of tens to millions of individuals that vary greatly in morphology, physiology, and behavior; this variation has been used to address proximate and ultimate mechanisms generating phenotypic plasticity. Relatedness asymmetries within colonies have been fundamental to the formulation and empirical testing of kin and group selection theories. Genomic resources have been developed for some species, and a whole-genome sequence for several species is likely to follow in the near future; comparative genomics in ants should provide new insights into the evolution of complexity and sociogenomics. Future studies using ants should help establish a more comprehensive understanding of social life, from molecules to colonies.

  7. Visual scene perception in navigating wood ants.

    PubMed

    Lent, David D; Graham, Paul; Collett, Thomas S

    2013-04-22

    Ants, like honeybees, can set their travel direction along foraging routes using just the surrounding visual panorama. This ability gives us a way to explore how visual scenes are perceived. By training wood ants to follow a path in an artificial scene and then examining their path within transformed scenes, we identify several perceptual operations that contribute to the ants' choice of direction. The first is a novel extension to the known ability of insects to compute the "center of mass" of large shapes: ants learn a desired heading toward a point on a distant shape as the proportion of the shape that lies to the left and right of the aiming point--the 'fractional position of mass' (FPM). The second operation, the extraction of local visual features like oriented edges, is familiar from studies of shape perception. Ants may use such features for guidance by keeping them in desired retinal locations. Third, ants exhibit segmentation. They compute the learned FPM over the whole of a simple scene, but over a segmented region of a complex scene. We suggest how the three operations may combine to provide efficient directional guidance. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

  8. Antarctic Tephra Database (AntT)

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Kurbatov, A.; Dunbar, N. W.; Iverson, N. A.; Gerbi, C. C.; Yates, M. G.; Kalteyer, D.; McIntosh, W. C.

    2014-12-01

    Modern paleoclimate research is heavily dependent on establishing accurate timing related to rapid shifts in Earth's climate system. The ability to correlate these events at local, and ideally at the intercontinental scales, allows assessment, for example, of phasing or changes in atmospheric circulation. Tephra-producing volcanic eruptions are geologically instantaneous events that are largely independent of climate. We have developed a tephrochronological framework for paleoclimate research in Antarctic in a user friendly, freely accessible online Antarctic tephra (AntT) database (http://cci.um.maine.edu/AntT/). Information about volcanic events, including physical and geochemical characteristics of volcanic products collected from multiple data sources, are integrated into the AntT database.The AntT project establishes a new centralized data repository for Antarctic tephrochronology, which is needed for precise correlation of records between Antarctic ice cores (e.g. WAIS Divide, RICE, Talos Dome, ITASE) and global paleoclimate archives. The AntT will help climatologists, paleoclimatologists, atmospheric chemists, geochemists, climate modelers synchronize paleoclimate archives using volcanic products that establishing timing of climate events in different geographic areas, climate-forcing mechanisms, natural threshold levels in the climate system. All these disciplines will benefit from accurate reconstructions of the temporal and spatial distribution of past rapid climate change events in continental, atmospheric, marine and polar realms. Research is funded by NSF grants: ANT-1142007 and 1142069.

  9. Microfungal "weeds" in the leafcutter ant symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Rodrigues, A; Bacci, M; Mueller, U G; Ortiz, A; Pagnocca, F C

    2008-11-01

    Leafcutter ants (Formicidae: tribe Attini) are well-known insects that cultivate basidiomycete fungi (Agaricales: Lepiotaceae) as their principal food. Fungus gardens are monocultures of a single cultivar strain, but they also harbor a diverse assemblage of additional microbes with largely unknown roles in the symbiosis. Cultivar-attacking microfungi in the genus Escovopsis are specialized parasites found only in association with attine gardens. Evolutionary theory predicts that the low genetic diversity in monocultures should render ant gardens susceptible to a wide range of diseases, and additional parasites with roles similar to that of Escovopsis are expected to exist. We profiled the diversity of cultivable microfungi found in 37 nests from ten Acromyrmex species from Southern Brazil and compared this diversity to published surveys. Our study revealed a total of 85 microfungal strains. Fusarium oxysporum and Escovopsis were the predominant species in the surveyed gardens, infecting 40.5% and 27% of the nests, respectively. No specific relationship existed regarding microfungal species and ant-host species, ant substrate preference (dicot versus grass) or nesting habit. Molecular data indicated high genetic diversity among Escovopsis isolates. In contrast to the garden parasite, F. oxysporum strains are not specific parasites of the cultivated fungus because strains isolated from attine gardens have similar counterparts found in the environment. Overall, the survey indicates that saprophytic microfungi are prevalent in South American leafcutter ants. We discuss the antagonistic potential of these microorganisms as "weeds" in the ant-fungus symbiosis.

  10. Exploration adjustment by ant colonies

    PubMed Central

    2016-01-01

    How do animals in groups organize their work? Division of labour, i.e. the process by which individuals within a group choose which tasks to perform, has been extensively studied in social insects. Variability among individuals within a colony seems to underpin both the decision over which tasks to perform and the amount of effort to invest in a task. Studies have focused mainly on discrete tasks, i.e. tasks with a recognizable end. Here, we study the distribution of effort in nest seeking, in the absence of new nest sites. Hence, this task is open-ended and individuals have to decide when to stop searching, even though the task has not been completed. We show that collective search effort declines when colonies inhabit better homes, as a consequence of a reduction in the number of bouts (exploratory events). Furthermore, we show an increase in bout exploration time and a decrease in bout instantaneous speed for colonies inhabiting better homes. The effect of treatment on bout effort is very small; however, we suggest that the organization of work performed within nest searching is achieved both by a process of self-selection of the most hard-working ants and individual effort adjustment. PMID:26909180

  11. The role of leaf cutter ants on soil organic carbon dynamics in a wet tropical forest

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Schwendenmann, L.; Meredyth-Young, M.; Dierick, D.; Allen, M. F.; Harmon, T. C.; Oberbauer, S. F.; Rundel, P.; Trahan, N. A.; Zelikova, T. J.

    2016-12-01

    Tropical forest ecosystems play an important role in the global carbon (C) cycle. Neotropical forests are significantly influenced by leaf cutter ants (LCA) which are the most important herbivore in these systems. LCA cut fresh leaves and bring large amounts of plant biomass into their nests to grow their fungus gardens. The excavation and continual maintenance of their large nests modifies soil characteristics and biogeochemistry with direct and indirect impacts on soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics. The aim of this study was to quantify the effects of LCA (Atta cephalotes) on soil C mineralization, carbon degrading enzymes (β-glucosidase and α-glucosidase), and labile soil C (hot water extractable carbon) across a 1 m soil depth profile and comparing between two different soils (residual and alluvial) and forest types (primary and secondary) in a wet tropical rainforest in Costa Rica. We hypothesized that C mineralization rates will be higher inside LCA nests due to continual input of fresh organic matter, as evidenced by higher microbial biomass and carbon degrading enzymes. Similarly, we expected more labile C inside nests. All soil C parameters were highly variable among sites and between nests and controls. Carbon mineralization rates ranged from 0.02 to 0.2 µmol C h-1 g soil-1 during the initial decay phase which lasted approximately 6 days during soil incubation. The highest respiration rates were measured in the top 20 cm of the primary forest residual soil. Contrary to our expectations, C mineralization rates were higher in control soils, where C degrading enzymes were in higher concentrations (around 250 µmol). The labile soil C concentrations were variable across sites (2-25 mg C g soil-1) and higher in the upper soil profiles, but no significant differences were found between controls and nests. Our results indicate greater heterogeneity inside the nests than previously expected. We explain our findings in terms of the removal of leaf and organic

  12. Are ant-aphid associations a tritrophic interaction? Oleander aphids and Argentine ants.

    PubMed

    Bristow, C M

    1991-09-01

    Oleander aphids, (Aphis nerii), which are sporadically tended by ants, were used as a moded system to examine whether host plant factors associated with feeding site influenced the formation of ant-aphid associations. Seasonal patterns of host plant utilization and association with attendant ants were examined through bi-weekly censuses of the aphid population feeding on thirty ornamental oleander plands (Nerium oleander) in northern California in 1985 and 1986. Colonies occurred on both developing and senescing plant terminals, including leaf tips, floral structures, and pods. Aphids preferentially colonized leaf terminals early in the season, but showed no preference for feeding site during later periods. Argentine ants (Iridomyrmex humilis) occasionally tended aphid colonies. Colonies on floral tips were three to four times more likely to attract ants than colonies on leaf tips, even though the latter frequently contained more aphids. Ants showed a positive recruitment response to colonies on floral tips, with a significant correlation between colony size and number of ants. There was no recruitment response to colonies on leaf tips. These patterns were reproducible over two years despite large fluctuations in both aphid population density and ant activity. In a laboratory bioassay of aphid palatability, the generalist predator,Hippodamia convergens, took significantly more aphids reared on floral tips compared to those reared on leaf tips. The patterns reported here support the hypothesis that tritrophic factors may be important in modifying higher level arthropod mutualisms.

  13. The ant's estimation of distance travelled: experiments with desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis.

    PubMed

    Sommer, S; Wehner, R

    2004-01-01

    Foraging desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, monitor their position relative to the nest by path integration. They continually update the direction and distance to the nest by employing a celestial compass and an odometer. In the present account we addressed the question of how the precision of the ant's estimate of its homing distance depends on the distance travelled. We trained ants to forage at different distances in linear channels comprising a nest entrance and a feeder. For testing we caught ants at the feeder and released them in a parallel channel. The results show that ants tend to underestimate their distances travelled. This underestimation is the more pronounced, the larger the foraging distance gets. The quantitative relationship between training distance and the ant's estimate of this distance can be described by a logarithmic and an exponential model. The ant's odometric undershooting could be adaptive during natural foraging trips insofar as it leads the homing ant to concentrate the major part of its nest-search behaviour on the base of its individual foraging sector, i.e. on its familiar landmark corridor.

  14. Applied Ecology and Control of Imported Fire Ants and Argentine Ants

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, and Argentine ant, Linepithema humile (Mayr), are invasive species that are major pests in urban, natural, and agricultural habitats. The goal of this dissertation was to study aspects the chemical sensitivity, behavior, and ecology of each specie...

  15. Ecology of a fig ant-plant

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Harrison, Rhett D.

    2014-05-01

    Mutualistic interactions are embedded in networks of interactions that affect the benefits accruing to the mutualistic partners. Figs and their pollinating wasps are engaged in an obligate mutualism in which the fig is dependent on the fig pollinator for pollination services and the pollinator is dependent on fig ovules for brood sites. This mutualism is exploited by non-pollinating fig wasps that utilise the same ovules, but do not provide a pollination service. Most non-pollinating wasps oviposit from outside the inflorescence (syconium), where they are vulnerable to ant predation. Ficus schwarzii is exposed to high densities of non-pollinating wasps, but Philidris sp. ants patrolling the syconia prevent them from ovipositing. Philidris rarely catch wasps, but the fig encourages the patrolling by providing a reward through extra-floral nectaries on the surface of syconia. Moreover, the reward is apparently only produced during the phase when parasitoids are ovipositing. An ant-exclusion experiment demonstrated that, in the absence of ants, syconia were heavily attacked and many aborted as a consequence. Philidris was normally rare on the figs during the receptive phase or at the time of day when wasp offspring are emerging, so predation on pollinators was limited. However, Myrmicaria sp. ants, which only occurred on three trees, preyed substantially on pollinating as well as non-pollinating wasps. F. schwarzii occurs in small clusters of trees and has an exceptionally rapid crop turnover. These factors appear to promote high densities of non-pollinating wasps and, as a consequence, may have led to both a high incidence of ants on trees and increased selective pressure on fig traits that increase the payoffs of the fig-ant interaction for the fig. The fig receives no direct benefit from the reward it provides, but protects pollinating wasps that will disperse its pollen.

  16. Ant Colony Optimization Algorithm for Continuous Domains Based on Position Distribution Model of Ant Colony Foraging

    PubMed Central

    Liu, Liqiang; Dai, Yuntao

    2014-01-01

    Ant colony optimization algorithm for continuous domains is a major research direction for ant colony optimization algorithm. In this paper, we propose a distribution model of ant colony foraging, through analysis of the relationship between the position distribution and food source in the process of ant colony foraging. We design a continuous domain optimization algorithm based on the model and give the form of solution for the algorithm, the distribution model of pheromone, the update rules of ant colony position, and the processing method of constraint condition. Algorithm performance against a set of test trials was unconstrained optimization test functions and a set of optimization test functions, and test results of other algorithms are compared and analyzed to verify the correctness and effectiveness of the proposed algorithm. PMID:24955402

  17. The descent of ant: field-measured performance of gliding ants.

    PubMed

    Munk, Yonatan; Yanoviak, Stephen P; Koehl, M A R; Dudley, Robert

    2015-05-01

    Gliding ants avoid predatory attacks and potentially mortal consequences of dislodgement from rainforest canopy substrates by directing their aerial descent towards nearby tree trunks. The ecologically relevant measure of performance for gliding ants is the ratio of net horizontal to vertical distance traveled over the course of a gliding trajectory, or glide index. To study variation in glide index, we measured three-dimensional trajectories of Cephalotes atratus ants gliding in natural rainforest habitats. We determined that righting phase duration, glide angle, and path directness all significantly influence variation in glide index. Unsuccessful landing attempts result in the ant bouncing off its target and being forced to make a second landing attempt. Our results indicate that ants are not passive gliders and that they exert active control over the aerodynamic forces they experience during their descent, despite their apparent lack of specialized control surfaces.

  18. Ant colony optimization algorithm for continuous domains based on position distribution model of ant colony foraging.

    PubMed

    Liu, Liqiang; Dai, Yuntao; Gao, Jinyu

    2014-01-01

    Ant colony optimization algorithm for continuous domains is a major research direction for ant colony optimization algorithm. In this paper, we propose a distribution model of ant colony foraging, through analysis of the relationship between the position distribution and food source in the process of ant colony foraging. We design a continuous domain optimization algorithm based on the model and give the form of solution for the algorithm, the distribution model of pheromone, the update rules of ant colony position, and the processing method of constraint condition. Algorithm performance against a set of test trials was unconstrained optimization test functions and a set of optimization test functions, and test results of other algorithms are compared and analyzed to verify the correctness and effectiveness of the proposed algorithm.

  19. Impacts of residual insecticide barriers on perimeter-invading ants, with particular reference to the odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile.

    PubMed

    Scharf, Michael E; Ratliff, Catina R; Bennett, Gary W

    2004-04-01

    Three liquid insecticide formulations were evaluated as barrier treatments against perimeter-invading ants at a multifamily housing complex in West Lafayette, IN. Several ant species were present at the study site, including (in order of abundance) pavement ant, Tetramorium caespitum (L.); honey ant, Prenolepis imparis (Say); odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile (Say); thief ant, Solenopsis molesta (Say); acrobat ant, Crematogaster ashmeadi (Mayr); crazy ant, Paratrechina longicornis (Latrielle), field ants, Formica spp.; and carpenter ant Camponotus pennsylvanicus (DeGeer). Studies began in May 2001 and concluded 8 wk later in July. Individual replicate treatments were placed 0.61 in (2 feet) up and 0.92 m (3 feet) out from the ends of 46.1 by 10.1-m (151 by 33-foot) apartment buildings. Ant sampling was performed with 10 placements of moist cat food for 1 h within treatment zones, followed by capture and removal of recruited ants for later counting. All treatments led to substantial reductions in ant numbers relative to untreated controls. The most effective treatment was fipronil, where 2% of before-treatment ant numbers were present at 8 wk after treatment. Both imidacloprid and cyfluthrin barrier treatments had efficacy comparative with fipronil, but to 4 and 2 wk, respectively. Odorous house ants were not sampled before treatment. Comparisons of ant species composition between treatments and controls revealed an increase in odorous house ant frequencies at 1-8 wk after treatment in treated locations only. These results demonstrate efficacy for both nonrepellent and repellent liquid insecticides as perimeter treatments for pest ants. In addition, our findings with odorous house ant highlight an apparent invasive-like characteristic of this species that may contribute to its dramatic increase in structural infestation rates in many areas of the United States.

  20. Fossil evidence for the early ant evolution

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Perrichot, Vincent; Lacau, Sébastien; Néraudeau, Didier; Nel, André

    2008-02-01

    Ants are one of the most studied insects in the world; and the literature devoted to their origin and evolution, systematics, ecology, or interactions with plants, fungi and other organisms is prolific. However, no consensus yet exists on the age estimate of the first Formicidae or on the origin of their eusociality. We review the fossil and biogeographical record of all known Cretaceous ants. We discuss the possible origin of the Formicidae with emphasis on the most primitive subfamily Sphecomyrminae according to its distribution and the Early Cretaceous palaeogeography. And we review the evidence of true castes and eusociality of the early ants regarding their morphological features and their manner of preservation in amber. The mid-Cretaceous amber forest from south-western France where some of the oldest known ants lived, corresponded to a moist tropical forest close to the shore with a dominance of gymnosperm trees but where angiosperms (flowering plants) were already diversified. This palaeoenvironmental reconstruction supports an initial radiation of ants in forest ground litter coincident with the rise of angiosperms, as recently proposed as an ecological explanation for their origin and successful evolution.

  1. Statistical Mechanics of Collective Transport by Ants

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Pinkoviezky, Itai; Gelblum, Aviram; Fonio, Ehud; Ghosh, Abhijit; Gov, Nir; Feinerman, Ofer

    Collective decisions and cooperation within groups are essential for the survival of many species. Conflicts within the group must be suppressed but conformism may render the system unresponsive to new information. Collective transport by ants is therefore an ideal model system to study how animal groups optimize these opposing requirements. We combine experiments and theory to characterize the collective transport. The ants are modeled as binary Ising spins, representing the two roles ants can perform during transport. It turns out that the ants poise themselves collectively near a critical point where the response to a newly attached ant is maximized. We identify the size as being proportional to an inverse effective temperature and thus the system can exhibit a mesoscopic transition between order and disorder by manipulating the size. Constraining the cargo with a string makes the system behave as a strongly non-linear pendulum. Theoretically we predict that a Hopf bifurcation occurs at a critical size followed by a global bifurcation where full swings emerge. Remarkably, these theoretical predictions were verified experimentally.

  2. Early ant trajectories: spatial behaviour before behaviourism.

    PubMed

    Wehner, Rüdiger

    2016-04-01

    In the beginning of the twentieth century, when Jacques Loeb's and John Watson's mechanistic view of life started to dominate animal physiology and behavioural biology, several scientists with different academic backgrounds got engaged in studying the wayfinding behaviour of ants. Largely unaffected by the scientific spirit of the time, they worked independently of each other in different countries: in Algeria, Tunisia, Spain, Switzerland and the United States of America. In the current literature on spatial cognition these early ant researchers--Victor Cornetz, Felix Santschi, Charles Turner and Rudolf Brun--are barely mentioned. Moreover, it is virtually unknown that the great neuroanatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal had also worked on spatial orientation in ants. This general neglect is certainly due to the fact that nearly all these ant researchers were scientific loners, who did their idiosyncratic investigations outside the realm of comparative physiology, neurobiology and the behavioural sciences of the time, and published their results in French, German, and Spanish at rather inaccessible places. Even though one might argue that much of their work resulted in mainly anecdotal evidence, the conceptual approaches of these early ant researchers preempt much of the present-day discussions on spatial representation in animals.

  3. Lycaenid Caterpillar Secretions Manipulate Attendant Ant Behavior.

    PubMed

    Hojo, Masaru K; Pierce, Naomi E; Tsuji, Kazuki

    2015-08-31

    Mutualistic interactions typically involve the exchange of different commodities between species. Nutritious secretions are produced by a number of insects and plants in exchange for services such as defense. These rewards are valuable metabolically and can be used to reinforce the behavior of symbiotic partners that can learn and remember them effectively. We show here novel effects of insect exocrine secretions produced by caterpillars in modulating the behavior of attendant ants in the food-for-defense interaction between lycaenid butterflies and ants. Reward secretions from the dorsal nectary organ (DNO) of Narathura japonica caterpillars function to reduce the locomotory activities of their attendant ants, Pristomyrmex punctatus workers. Moreover, workers that feed from caterpillar secretions are significantly more likely to show aggressive responses to eversion of the tentacle organs of the caterpillars. Analysis of the neurogenic amines in the brains of workers that consumed caterpillar secretions showed a significant decrease in levels of dopamine compared with controls. Experimental treatments in which reserpine, a known inhibitor of dopamine in Drosophila, was fed to workers similarly reduced their locomotory activity. We conclude that DNO secretions of lycaenid caterpillars can manipulate attendant ant behavior by altering dopaminergic regulation and increasing partner fidelity. Unless manipulated ants also receive a net nutritional benefit from DNO secretions, this suggests that similar reward-for-defense interactions that have been traditionally considered to be mutualisms may in fact be parasitic in nature. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

  4. Detection of mitochondrial COII DNA sequences in ant guts as a method for assessing termite predation by ants.

    PubMed

    Fayle, Tom M; Scholtz, Olivia; Dumbrell, Alex J; Russell, Stephen; Segar, Simon T; Eggleton, Paul

    2015-01-01

    Termites and ants contribute more to animal biomass in tropical rain forests than any other single group and perform vital ecosystem functions. Although ants prey on termites, at the community level the linkage between these groups is poorly understood. Thus, assessing the distribution and specificity of ant termitophagy is of considerable interest. We describe an approach for quantifying ant-termite food webs by sequencing termite DNA (cytochrome c oxidase subunit II, COII) from ant guts and apply this to a soil-dwelling ant community from tropical rain forest in Gabon. We extracted DNA from 215 ants from 15 species. Of these, 17.2 % of individuals had termite DNA in their guts, with BLAST analysis confirming the identity of 34.1 % of these termites to family level or better. Although ant species varied in detection of termite DNA, ranging from 63 % (5/7; Camponotus sp. 1) to 0 % (0/7; Ponera sp. 1), there was no evidence (with small sample sizes) for heterogeneity in termite consumption across ant taxa, and no evidence for species-specific ant-termite predation. In all three ant species with identifiable termite DNA in multiple individuals, multiple termite species were represented. Furthermore, the two termite species that were detected on multiple occasions in ant guts were in both cases found in multiple ant species, suggesting that ant-termite food webs are not strongly compartmentalised. However, two ant species were found to consume only Anoplotermes-group termites, indicating possible predatory specialisation at a higher taxonomic level. Using a laboratory feeding test, we were able to detect termite COII sequences in ant guts up to 2 h after feeding, indicating that our method only detects recent feeding events. Our data provide tentative support for the hypothesis that unspecialised termite predation by ants is widespread and highlight the use of molecular approaches for future studies of ant-termite food webs.

  5. Detection of Mitochondrial COII DNA Sequences in Ant Guts as a Method for Assessing Termite Predation by Ants

    PubMed Central

    Fayle, Tom M.; Scholtz, Olivia; Dumbrell, Alex J.; Russell, Stephen; Segar, Simon T.; Eggleton, Paul

    2015-01-01

    Termites and ants contribute more to animal biomass in tropical rain forests than any other single group and perform vital ecosystem functions. Although ants prey on termites, at the community level the linkage between these groups is poorly understood. Thus, assessing the distribution and specificity of ant termitophagy is of considerable interest. We describe an approach for quantifying ant-termite food webs by sequencing termite DNA (cytochrome c oxidase subunit II, COII) from ant guts and apply this to a soil-dwelling ant community from tropical rain forest in Gabon. We extracted DNA from 215 ants from 15 species. Of these, 17.2 % of individuals had termite DNA in their guts, with BLAST analysis confirming the identity of 34.1 % of these termites to family level or better. Although ant species varied in detection of termite DNA, ranging from 63 % (5/7; Camponotus sp. 1) to 0 % (0/7; Ponera sp. 1), there was no evidence (with small sample sizes) for heterogeneity in termite consumption across ant taxa, and no evidence for species-specific ant-termite predation. In all three ant species with identifiable termite DNA in multiple individuals, multiple termite species were represented. Furthermore, the two termite species that were detected on multiple occasions in ant guts were in both cases found in multiple ant species, suggesting that ant-termite food webs are not strongly compartmentalised. However, two ant species were found to consume only Anoplotermes-group termites, indicating possible predatory specialisation at a higher taxonomic level. Using a laboratory feeding test, we were able to detect termite COII sequences in ant guts up to 2 h after feeding, indicating that our method only detects recent feeding events. Our data provide tentative support for the hypothesis that unspecialised termite predation by ants is widespread and highlight the use of molecular approaches for future studies of ant-termite food webs. PMID:25853549

  6. Moribund Ants Do Not Call for Help

    PubMed Central

    Miler, Krzysztof

    2016-01-01

    When an antlion captures a foraging ant, the victim’s nestmates may display rescue behaviour. This study tested the hypothesis that the expression of rescue behaviour depends on the life expectancy of the captured ant. This hypothesis predicts that the expression of rescue behaviour will be less frequent when the captured ant has a lower life expectancy than when it has a higher life expectancy because such a response would be adaptive at the colony level. Indeed, significant differences were found in the frequency of rescue behaviours in response to antlion victims with differing life expectancies. In agreement with prediction, victims with lower life expectancies were rescued less frequently, and those rescues had a longer latency and shorter duration. There was also a qualitative difference in the behaviour of rescuers to victims from the low and high life expectancy groups. Several explanations for these findings are proposed. PMID:26986741

  7. Establishing food site vectors in desert ants.

    PubMed

    Bolek, Siegfried; Wittlinger, Matthias; Wolf, Harald

    2012-02-15

    When returning to the site of a successful previous forage, where does one search for the goodies? Should one rely on experience from the previous homebound journey, or should one consider the outbound journey as well, or even exclusively? Desert ants are particularly well suited for pursuing this question because of their primary reliance on path integration in open and featureless desert habitats. Path integration has been studied particularly with regard to homing after lengthy foraging trips. The ants also use path integration to return to plentiful feeding sites, but what is memorised for revisiting the feeder remains controversial. Here, we demonstrate that desert ants consider, and indeed linearly average, both outbound and inbound travel for their return to a familiar feeder. This may be interpreted as a strategy to reduce navigation errors.

  8. Desert ants learn vibration and magnetic landmarks.

    PubMed

    Buehlmann, Cornelia; Hansson, Bill S; Knaden, Markus

    2012-01-01

    The desert ants Cataglyphis navigate not only by path integration but also by using visual and olfactory landmarks to pinpoint the nest entrance. Here we show that Cataglyphis noda can additionally use magnetic and vibrational landmarks as nest-defining cues. The magnetic field may typically provide directional rather than positional information, and vibrational signals so far have been shown to be involved in social behavior. Thus it remains questionable if magnetic and vibration landmarks are usually provided by the ants' habitat as nest-defining cues. However, our results point to the flexibility of the ants' navigational system, which even makes use of cues that are probably most often sensed in a different context.

  9. Ant-plants and fungi: a new threeway symbiosis.

    PubMed

    Defossez, Emmanuel; Selosse, Marc-André; Dubois, Marie-Pierre; Mondolot, Laurence; Faccio, Antonella; Djieto-Lordon, Champlain; McKey, Doyle; Blatrix, Rumsaïs

    2009-06-01

    Symbioses between plants and fungi, fungi and ants, and ants and plants all play important roles in ecosystems. Symbioses involving all three partners appear to be rare. Here, we describe a novel tripartite symbiosis in which ants and a fungus inhabit domatia of an ant-plant, and present evidence that such interactions are widespread. We investigated 139 individuals of the African ant-plant Leonardoxa africana for occurrence of fungus. Behaviour of mutualist ants toward the fungus within domatia was observed using a video camera fitted with an endoscope. Fungi were identified by sequencing a fragment of their ribosomal DNA. Fungi were always present in domatia occupied by mutualist ants but never in domatia occupied by opportunistic or parasitic ants. Ants appear to favour the propagation, removal and maintenance of the fungus. Similar fungi were associated with other ant-plants in Cameroon. All belong to the ascomycete order Chaetothyriales; those from L. africana formed a monophyletic clade. These new plant-ant-fungus associations seem to be specific, as demonstrated within Leonardoxa and as suggested by fungal phyletic identities. Such tripartite associations are widespread in African ant-plants but have long been overlooked. Taking fungal partners into account will greatly enhance our understanding of symbiotic ant-plant mutualisms.

  10. An ants-eye view of an ant-plant protection mutualism

    PubMed Central

    Lanan, M. C.; Bronstein, J. L.

    2013-01-01

    Ant protection of extrafloral nectar-secreting plants (EFN plants) is a common form of mutualism found in most habitats around the world. However, very few studies have considered these mutualisms from the ant, rather than the plant, perspective. In particular, a whole-colony perspective that takes into account the spatial structure and nest arrangement of the ant colonies that visit these plants has been lacking, obscuring when and how colony-level foraging decisions might affect tending rates on individual plants. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that recruitment of Crematogaster opuntiae (Buren) ant workers to the extrafloral nectar-secreting cactus Ferocactus wislizeni (Englem) is not independent between plants up to 5m apart. Colony territories of C. opuntiae are large, covering areas of up to 5000m2, and workers visit between five and thirty-four extrafloral nectar-secreting barrel cacti within the territories. These ants are highly polydomous, with up to twenty nest entrances dispersed throughout the territory and interconnected by trail networks. Our study demonstrates that worker recruitment is not independent within large polydomous ant colonies, highlighting the importance of considering colonies rather than individual workers as the relevant study unit within ant/plant protection mutualisms PMID:23515612

  11. An ant's-eye view of an ant-plant protection mutualism.

    PubMed

    Lanan, M C; Bronstein, J L

    2013-07-01

    Ant protection of extrafloral nectar (EFN)-secreting plants is a common form of mutualism found in most habitats around the world. However, very few studies have considered these mutualisms from the ant, rather than the plant, perspective. In particular, a whole-colony perspective that takes into account the spatial structure and nest arrangement of the ant colonies that visit these plants has been lacking, obscuring when and how colony-level foraging decisions might affect tending rates on individual plants. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that recruitment of Crematogaster opuntiae (Buren) ant workers to the EFN-secreting cactus Ferocactus wislizeni (Englem) is not independent between plants up to 5 m apart. Colony territories of C. opuntiae are large, covering areas of up to 5,000 m(2), and workers visit between five and 34 EFN-secreting barrel cacti within the territories. These ants are highly polydomous, with up to 20 nest entrances dispersed throughout the territory and interconnected by trail networks. Our study demonstrates that worker recruitment is not independent within large polydomous ant colonies, highlighting the importance of considering colonies rather than individual workers as the relevant study unit within ant/plant protection mutualisms.

  12. Ant-gardens of tropical Asian rainforests.

    PubMed

    Kaufmann, Eva; Maschwitz, Ulrich

    2006-05-01

    Ant-garden (AG) associations are systems of epiphytic plants and arboricolous (i.e., tree-living) ants, in which the ants build fragile carton nests containing organic material. They collect and incorporate seeds or fruits of epiphytes that then germinate and grow on the nest [sensu Corbara et al. (1999) 38:73-89]. The plant roots stabilize the nest carton. AGs have been well-known in the neotropics for more than 100 years. In contrast, reports on similar associations in the paleotropics are scarce so far. After discovering a first common AG system on giant bamboo [Kaufmann et al. (2001) 48:125-133], we started a large-scale survey for AGs in Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, Java, and southern Thailand. A great variety of AG systems (altogether including 18 ant species and 51 plant species) was discovered and is described in the present paper. The high number of species participating in AG associations was reflected by a great variability in the specific appearances of the nest gardens. Frequently, further groups of organisms (e.g., hemipteran trophobionts, fungi) were also involved. Preference patterns of particular ant and epiphyte species for each other and for particular phorophytes (carrier trees) were detected. We integrate domatia-producing, so-called ant-house epiphytes in our study and compare their phases of establishment, as well as other characteristics, to "classical" AGs, coming to the conclusion that they should be regarded only as a special type of AG epiphyte and not as a separate ecological category.

  13. Ant-gardens of tropical Asian rainforests

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Kaufmann, Eva; Maschwitz, Ulrich

    2006-05-01

    Ant-garden (AG) associations are systems of epiphytic plants and arboricolous (i.e., tree-living) ants, in which the ants build fragile carton nests containing organic material. They collect and incorporate seeds or fruits of epiphytes that then germinate and grow on the nest [sensu Corbara et al. (1999) 38:73-89]. The plant roots stabilize the nest carton. AGs have been well-known in the neotropics for more than 100 years. In contrast, reports on similar associations in the paleotropics are scarce so far. After discovering a first common AG system on giant bamboo [Kaufmann et al. (2001) 48:125-133], we started a large-scale survey for AGs in Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, Java, and southern Thailand. A great variety of AG systems (altogether including 18 ant species and 51 plant species) was discovered and is described in the present paper. The high number of species participating in AG associations was reflected by a great variability in the specific appearances of the nest gardens. Frequently, further groups of organisms (e.g., hemipteran trophobionts, fungi) were also involved. Preference patterns of particular ant and epiphyte species for each other and for particular phorophytes (carrier trees) were detected. We integrate domatia-producing, so-called ant-house epiphytes in our study and compare their phases of establishment, as well as other characteristics, to “classical” AGs, coming to the conclusion that they should be regarded only as a special type of AG epiphyte and not as a separate ecological category.

  14. Multi-Phase Defense by the Big-Headed Ant, Pheidole obtusospinosa, Against Raiding Army Ants

    PubMed Central

    Huang, Ming H.

    2010-01-01

    Army ants are well known for their destructive raids of other ant colonies. Some known defensive strategies include nest evacuation, modification of nest architecture, blockade of nest entrances using rocks or debris, and direct combat outside the nest. Since army ants highly prefer Pheidole ants as prey in desert habitats, there may be strong selective pressure on Pheidole to evolve defensive strategies to better survive raids. In the case of P. obtusospinosa Pergande (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), the worker caste system includes super majors in addition to smaller majors and minor workers. Interestingly, P. obtusospinosa and the six other New World Pheidole species described to have polymorphic major workers are all found in the desert southwest and adjacent regions of Mexico, all co-occurring with various species of Neivamyrmex army ants. Pheidole obtusospinosa used a multi-phase defensive strategy against army ant raids that involved their largest major workers. During army ant attacks, these super majors were involved in blocking the nest entrance with their enlarged heads. This is the first description of defensive head-blocking by an ant species that lacks highly modified head morphology, such as a truncated or disc-shaped head. P. obtusospinosa super majors switched effectively between passive headblocking at the nest entrance and aggressive combat outside the nest. If this multi-phase strategy is found to be used by other Pheidole species with polymorphic majors in future studies, it is possible that selective pressure by army ant raids may have been partially responsible for the convergent evolution of this extra worker caste. PMID:20569122

  15. Wolbachia transmission dynamics in Formica wood ants

    PubMed Central

    2008-01-01

    Background The role of Wolbachia endosymbionts in shaping the mitochondrial diversity of their arthropod host depends on the effects they have on host reproduction and on the mode of transmission of the bacteria. We have compared the sequence diversity of wsp (Wolbachia surface protein gene) and the host mtDNA in a group of Formica ant species that have diverged approximately 0.5 million years ago (MYA). The aim was to study the relationship of Wolbachia and its ant hosts in terms of vertical and horizontal transmission of the bacteria. Results All studied ant species were doubly infected with two Wolbachia strains (wFex1 and wFex4) all over their geographical distribution area in Eurasia. The most common haplotypes of these strains were identical with strains previously described from a more distantly related Formica ant, with an estimated divergence time of 3.5 – 4 MYA. Some strain haplotypes were associated to the same or closely related mtDNA haplotypes as expected under vertical transmission. However, in several cases the wsp haplotypes coexisted with distant mtDNA haplotypes, a pattern which is more compatible with horizontal transmission of the bacteria. Conclusion Two lines of evidence suggest that the sharing of Wolbachia strains by all F. rufa species is rather due to horizontal than vertical transmission. First, the fact that endosymbiont strains identical to those of F. rufa ants have been found in another species that diverged 3.5–4 MYA strongly suggests that horizontal transfer can and does occur between Formica ants. Second, the frequent sharing of identical Wolbachia strains by distant mitochondrial lineages within the F. rufa group further shows that horizontal transmission has occurred repeatedly. Nevertheless, our dataset also provides some evidence for longer-term persistence of infection, indicating that Wolbachia infection within this host clade has been shaped by both horizontal and vertical transmission of symbionts. The fact that all

  16. Ant functional responses along environmental gradients.

    PubMed

    Arnan, Xavier; Cerdá, Xim; Retana, Javier

    2014-11-01

    Understanding species distributions and diversity gradients is a central challenge in ecology and requires prior knowledge of the functional traits mediating species' survival under particular environmental conditions. While the functional ecology of plants has been reasonably well explored, much less is known about that of animals. Ants are among the most diverse, abundant and ecologically significant organisms on earth, and they perform a great variety of ecological functions. In this study, we analyse how the functional species traits present in ant communities vary along broad gradients in climate, productivity and vegetation type in the south-western Mediterranean. To this end, we compiled one of the largest animal databases to date: it contains information on 211 local ant communities (including eight climate variables, productivity, and vegetation type) and 124 ant species, for which 10 functional traits are described. We used traits that characterize different dimensions of the ant functional niche with respect to morphology, life history and behaviour at both individual and colony level. We calculated two complementary functional trait community indices ('trait average' and 'trait dissimilarity') for each trait, and we analysed how they varied along the three different gradients using generalized least squares models that accounted for spatial autocorrelation. Our results show that productivity, vegetation type and, to a lesser extent, each climate variable per se might play an important role in shaping the occurrence of functional species traits in ant communities. Among the climate variables, temperature and precipitation seasonality had a much higher influence on functional responses than their mean values, whose effects were almost lacking. Our results suggest that strong relationships might exist between the abiotic environment and the distribution of functional traits among south-western Mediterranean ant communities. This finding indicates that

  17. Estimating timber losses from a town ant colony with aerial photographs

    Treesearch

    John C. Moser

    1986-01-01

    Aerial photographs were used to locate an individual nest of Atta texana (Buckley) and to estimate the area of damage in a plantation of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.). Stumpage loss from the nest over a period of 30 years was estimated to be $653.

  18. Eye size and behaviour of day- and night-flying leafcutting ant alates

    Treesearch

    John C. Moser; John D. Reeve; José Maunício S. Bento; Terezinha M.C. Della Lucia; R. Scott Cameron; Natalie M. Heck

    2004-01-01

    The morphology of insect eyes often seems to be shaped by evolution to match their behaviour and lifestyle. Here the relationship between the nuptial flight behaviour of 10 Atta species (Hymenoptera: Fonnicidae) and the eye size of male and female alates, including the compound eyes, ommatidia facets, and ocelli were examined. These species can be...

  19. Variation in Extrafloral Nectary Productivity Influences the Ant Foraging

    PubMed Central

    2017-01-01

    Extrafloral nectar is the main food source offered by plants to predatory ants in most land environments. Although many studies have demonstrated the importance of extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) to plant defense against herbivores, the influence of EFNs secretory activity pattern on predatory ants remains yet not fully understood. Here, we verified the relation between the extrafloral nectar production of a plant community in Cerrado in different times of the day, and its attractiveness to ants. The extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) of seven plant species showed higher productivity overnight. Ant abundance was higher in times of large extrafloral nectar production, however, there was no positive relation between ant richness on plants and EFNs productivity. There was temporal resource partitioning among ant species, and it indicates strong resource competition. The nectar productivity varied among plant species and time of the day, and it influenced the visitation patterns of ants. Therefore, EFNs are a key ant-plant interaction driver in the studied system. PMID:28046069

  20. Variation in Extrafloral Nectary Productivity Influences the Ant Foraging.

    PubMed

    Lange, Denise; Calixto, Eduardo Soares; Del-Claro, Kleber

    2017-01-01

    Extrafloral nectar is the main food source offered by plants to predatory ants in most land environments. Although many studies have demonstrated the importance of extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) to plant defense against herbivores, the influence of EFNs secretory activity pattern on predatory ants remains yet not fully understood. Here, we verified the relation between the extrafloral nectar production of a plant community in Cerrado in different times of the day, and its attractiveness to ants. The extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) of seven plant species showed higher productivity overnight. Ant abundance was higher in times of large extrafloral nectar production, however, there was no positive relation between ant richness on plants and EFNs productivity. There was temporal resource partitioning among ant species, and it indicates strong resource competition. The nectar productivity varied among plant species and time of the day, and it influenced the visitation patterns of ants. Therefore, EFNs are a key ant-plant interaction driver in the studied system.

  1. Self-organized criticality in ant brood tending.

    PubMed

    O'Toole, D V; Robinson, P A; Myerscough, M R

    2003-03-07

    A new stochastic lattice gas model of ant brood tending is formulated to examine the role played by repulsive ant-ant interactions in the even distribution of care among brood members. The deterministic limit of the model is known to be self-organized critical. Numerical simulations of the model show that the ant-ant repulsion facilitates an even distribution of brood care in the middle of the brood. This provides a possible explanation for the fact that ants sort their brood so that the youngest brood (which are most in need of care) are placed in the middle. Simulations show that the uniformity of brood care distribution is optimal when ants operate in a regime intermediate between completely random and completely deterministic. A certain degree of randomness helps ants to avoid becoming trapped in suboptimal configurations but does not destroy the long-range correlations that are inherent to self-organized critical systems.

  2. 9 CFR 352.10 - Ante-mortem inspection.

    Code of Federal Regulations, 2012 CFR

    2012-01-01

    ..., bison and water buffalo are eligible for field ante-mortem inspection. The field ante-mortem designated... at an official exotic animal establishment. (1) Reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, bison, and...

  3. 9 CFR 352.10 - Ante-mortem inspection.

    Code of Federal Regulations, 2013 CFR

    2013-01-01

    ..., bison and water buffalo are eligible for field ante-mortem inspection. The field ante-mortem designated... at an official exotic animal establishment. (1) Reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, bison, and...

  4. 9 CFR 352.10 - Ante-mortem inspection.

    Code of Federal Regulations, 2011 CFR

    2011-01-01

    ..., bison and water buffalo are eligible for field ante-mortem inspection. The field ante-mortem designated... at an official exotic animal establishment. (1) Reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, bison, and...

  5. 9 CFR 352.10 - Ante-mortem inspection.

    Code of Federal Regulations, 2014 CFR

    2014-01-01

    ..., bison and water buffalo are eligible for field ante-mortem inspection. The field ante-mortem designated... at an official exotic animal establishment. (1) Reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, bison, and...

  6. 9 CFR 352.10 - Ante-mortem inspection.

    Code of Federal Regulations, 2010 CFR

    2010-01-01

    ..., bison and water buffalo are eligible for field ante-mortem inspection. The field ante-mortem designated... at an official exotic animal establishment. (1) Reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, bison, and...

  7. Niches and coexistence of ant communities in Puerto Rico

    Treesearch

    J.A. Torres

    1984-01-01

    I studied ant coexistence in adjacent areas of upland tropical forest, grassland, and agricultural land in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico. Data on food utilization, daily activity, nesting sites, microhabitat utilization and interspecific aggression were collected. Ants' tolerance to 45 degree C was determined in the laboratory. Agricultural and grassland ants eat grain...

  8. Parallelizing Ant Colony Optimization via Area of Expertise Learning

    DTIC Science & Technology

    2007-09-13

    ACS-TSP, is well-established and commonly used throughout the academic community. ACS-GRIDWORLD, on the other hand, represents a brand -new ant colony...van der Zwaan, S. and C. Marques . “Ant Colony Optimisation for Job Shop Scheduling”, 1999. URL citeseer.ist.psu.edu/vanderzwaan99ant.html. 103

  9. Model Specification Searches Using Ant Colony Optimization Algorithms

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Marcoulides, George A.; Drezner, Zvi

    2003-01-01

    Ant colony optimization is a recently proposed heuristic procedure inspired by the behavior of real ants. This article applies the procedure to model specification searches in structural equation modeling and reports the results. The results demonstrate the capabilities of ant colony optimization algorithms for conducting automated searches.

  10. Fire ant control with Entomopathogens in the USA

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    Fire ants, Solenopsis richteri and Solenopsis invicta, are stinging invasive ants from South America that infest over 129.5 million hectares in the southern United States. In the southern U.S., eradication is no longer considered possible and toxicant-based fire ant baiting is currently the primary...

  11. A Novel delivery Method for Ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) toxicants

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    Described here is a new delivery method for ant toxicants consisting of an inert carrier, an attractant, and a toxicant. Unlike baits, this system does not contain a food source, but uses ant to ant contact rather than trophallaxis as the mechanism for horizontal dispersal of the toxicant through th...

  12. Mutualistic ants as an indirect defence against leaf pathogens.

    PubMed

    González-Teuber, Marcia; Kaltenpoth, Martin; Boland, Wilhelm

    2014-04-01

    Mutualistic ants are commonly considered as an efficient indirect defence against herbivores. Nevertheless, their indirect protective role against plant pathogens has been scarcely investigated. We compared the protective role against pathogens of two different ant partners, a mutualistic and a parasitic ant, on the host plant Acacia hindsii (Fabaceae). The epiphytic bacterial community on leaves was evaluated in the presence and absence of both ant partners by cultivation and by 454 pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. Pathogen-inflicted leaf damage, epiphytic bacterial abundance (colony-forming units) and number of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were significantly higher in plants inhabited by parasitic ants than in plants inhabited by mutualistic ants. Unifrac unweighted and weighted principal component analyses showed that the bacterial community composition on leaves changed significantly when mutualistic ants were removed from plants or when plants were inhabited by parasitic ants. Direct mechanisms provided by ant-associated bacteria would contribute to the protective role against pathogens. The results suggest that the indirect defence of mutualistic ants also covers the protection from bacterial plant pathogens. Our findings highlight the importance of considering bacterial partners in ant-plant defensive mutualisms, which can contribute significantly to ant-mediated protection from plant pathogens.

  13. Model Specification Searches Using Ant Colony Optimization Algorithms

    ERIC Educational Resources Information Center

    Marcoulides, George A.; Drezner, Zvi

    2003-01-01

    Ant colony optimization is a recently proposed heuristic procedure inspired by the behavior of real ants. This article applies the procedure to model specification searches in structural equation modeling and reports the results. The results demonstrate the capabilities of ant colony optimization algorithms for conducting automated searches.

  14. 9 CFR 354.121 - Ante-mortem inspection.

    Code of Federal Regulations, 2010 CFR

    2010-01-01

    ... AGENCY ORGANIZATION AND TERMINOLOGY; MANDATORY MEAT AND POULTRY PRODUCTS INSPECTION AND VOLUNTARY INSPECTION AND CERTIFICATION VOLUNTARY INSPECTION OF RABBITS AND EDIBLE PRODUCTS THEREOF Inspection Procedures; Ante-Mortem Inspections § 354.121 Ante-mortem inspection. An ante-mortem inspection of...

  15. Dynamics of an ant-plant-pollinator model

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Wang, Yuanshi; DeAngelis, Donald L.; Nathaniel Holland, J.

    2015-03-01

    In this paper, we consider plant-pollinator-ant systems in which plant-pollinator interaction and plant-ant interaction are both mutualistic, but there also exists interference of pollinators by ants. The plant-pollinator interaction can be described by a Beddington-DeAngelis formula, so we extend the formula to characterize plant-pollinator mutualisms, including the interference by ants, and form a plant-pollinator-ant model. Using dynamical systems theory, we show uniform persistence of the model. Moreover, we demonstrate conditions under which boundary equilibria are globally asymptotically stable. The dynamics exhibit mechanisms by which the three species could coexist when ants interfere with pollinators. We define a threshold in ant interference. When ant interference is strong, it can drive plant-pollinator mutualisms to extinction. Furthermore, if the ants depend on pollination mutualism for their persistence, then sufficiently strong ant interference could lead to their own extinction as well. Yet, when ant interference is weak, plant-ant and plant-pollinator mutualisms can promote the persistence of one another.

  16. Plant lock and ant key: pairwise coevolution of an exclusion filter in an ant-plant mutualism.

    PubMed Central

    Brouat, C.; Garcia, N.; Andary, C.; McKey, D.

    2001-01-01

    Although observations suggest pairwise coevolution in specific ant-plant symbioses, coevolutionary processes have rarely been demonstrated. We report on, what is to the authors' knowledge, the strongest evidence yet for reciprocal adaptation of morphological characters in a species-specific ant-plant mutualism. The plant character is the prostoma, which is a small unlignified organ at the apex of the domatia in which symbiotic ants excavate an entrance hole. Each myrmecophyte in the genus Leonardoxa has evolved a prostoma with a different shape. By performing precise measurements on the prostomata of three related myrmecophytes, on their specific associated ants and on the entrance holes excavated by symbiotic ants at the prostomata, we showed that correspondence of the plant and ant traits forms a morphological and behavioural filter. We have strong evidence for coevolution between the dimensions and shape of the symbiotic ants and the prostoma in one of the three ant-Leonardoxa associations. PMID:11600077

  17. Dynamics of an ant-ant Obligate Mutualism: Colony Growth, Density Dependence and Frequency Dependence

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    In insect societies, worker versus queen development (reproductive caste) is typically governed by environmental factors, but many Pogonomyrmex seed-harvester ants exhibit strict genetic caste determination, resulting in an obligate mutualism between two reproductively isolated lineages. Same-linea...

  18. A global database of ant species abundances.

    PubMed

    Gibb, Heloise; Dunn, Rob R; Sanders, Nathan J; Grossman, Blair F; Photakis, Manoli; Abril, Silvia; Agosti, Donat; Andersen, Alan N; Angulo, Elena; Armbrecht, Inge; Arnan, Xavier; Baccaro, Fabricio B; Bishop, Tom R; Boulay, Raphaël; Brühl, Carsten; Castracani, Cristina; Cerda, Xim; Del Toro, Israel; Delsinne, Thibaut; Diaz, Mireia; Donoso, David A; Ellison, Aaron M; Enriquez, Martha L; Fayle, Tom M; Feener, Donald H; Fisher, Brian L; Fisher, Robert N; Fitzpatrick, Matthew C; Gómez, Crisanto; Gotelli, Nicholas J; Gove, Aaron; Grasso, Donato A; Groc, Sarah; Guenard, Benoit; Gunawardene, Nihara; Heterick, Brian; Hoffmann, Benjamin; Janda, Milan; Jenkins, Clinton; Kaspari, Michael; Klimes, Petr; Lach, Lori; Laeger, Thomas; Lattke, John; Leponce, Maurice; Lessard, Jean-Philippe; Longino, John; Lucky, Andrea; Luke, Sarah H; Majer, Jonathan; McGlynn, Terrence P; Menke, Sean; Mezger, Dirk; Mori, Alessandra; Moses, Jimmy; Munyai, Thinandavha Caswell; Pacheco, Renata; Paknia, Omid; Pearce-Duvet, Jessica; Pfeiffer, Martin; Philpott, Stacy M; Resasco, Julian; Retana, Javier; Silva, Rogerio R; Sorger, Magdalena D; Souza, Jorge; Suarez, Andrew; Tista, Melanie; Vasconcelos, Heraldo L; Vonshak, Merav; Weiser, Michael D; Yates, Michelle; Parr, Catherine L

    2017-03-01

    What forces structure ecological assemblages? A key limitation to general insights about assemblage structure is the availability of data that are collected at a small spatial grain (local assemblages) and a large spatial extent (global coverage). Here, we present published and unpublished data from 51 ,388 ant abundance and occurrence records of more than 2,693 species and 7,953 morphospecies from local assemblages collected at 4,212 locations around the world. Ants were selected because they are diverse and abundant globally, comprise a large fraction of animal biomass in most terrestrial communities, and are key contributors to a range of ecosystem functions. Data were collected between 1949 and 2014, and include, for each geo-referenced sampling site, both the identity of the ants collected and details of sampling design, habitat type, and degree of disturbance. The aim of compiling this data set was to provide comprehensive species abundance data in order to test relationships between assemblage structure and environmental and biogeographic factors. Data were collected using a variety of standardized methods, such as pitfall and Winkler traps, and will be valuable for studies investigating large-scale forces structuring local assemblages. Understanding such relationships is particularly critical under current rates of global change. We encourage authors holding additional data on systematically collected ant assemblages, especially those in dry and cold, and remote areas, to contact us and contribute their data to this growing data set.

  19. Enhanced pest ant control with hydrophobic bait

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    Ants occupy every ecological niche in the world where they contribute to the ecosystem, e.g., as scavengers and aerators of the soil. However, when they are transported, usually through human activities, to new locations they have powerful negative impacts on their adopted homeland. Five of the 17 l...

  20. Invasive ants influence native lizard populations

    USDA-ARS?s Scientific Manuscript database

    The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta; hereafter RIFA) is an invasive predator found on four continents, including South America, North America, Australia, and Asia. RIFAs are implicated in the decline of native invertebrates and vertebrates throughout their invaded range. We used the easter...

  1. Caste-specific tyramides from Myrmicine ants

    Treesearch

    T.H. Jones; H.M. Garrafo; T.F. Spande; N.R. Andriamaharavo; J.S.T. Gorman; A.J. Snyder; A.W. Jeter; J.A. Torres; John W. Daly

    2010-01-01

    Analysis of the extracts of male ants of Monomorium minimum and Monomorium ebeninum by GC-MS and GC-FTIR revealed the presence of tyramides 2 and 4c, for which the structures were established by comparison with synthetic samples. These compounds and their analogues 1 and 3 were also found in males of other Monomorium species, males of Myrmicaria opaciventris, and males...

  2. Serotonin depresses feeding behaviour in ants.

    PubMed

    Falibene, Agustina; Rössler, Wolfgang; Josens, Roxana

    2012-01-01

    Feeding behaviour is a complex functional system that relies on external signals and the physiological state of the animal. This is also the case in ants as they vary their feeding behaviour according to food characteristics, environmental conditions and - as they are social insects - to the colony's requirements. The biogenic amine serotonin (5-HT) was shown to be involved in the control and modulation of many actions and processes related to feeding in both vertebrates and invertebrates. In this study, we investigated whether 5-HT affects nectar feeding in ants by analysing its effect on the sucking-pump activity. Furthermore, we studied 5-HT association with tissues and neuronal ganglia involved in feeding regulation. Our results show that 5-HT promotes a dose-dependent depression of sucrose feeding in Camponotus mus ants. Orally administered 5-HT diminished the intake rate by mainly decreasing the volume of solution taken per pump contraction, without modifying the sucrose acceptance threshold. Immunohistochemical studies all along the alimentary canal revealed 5-HT-like immunoreactive processes on the foregut (oesophagus, crop and proventriculus), while the midgut and hindgut lacked 5-HT innervation. Although the frontal and suboesophageal ganglia contained 5-HT immunoreactive cell bodies, serotonergic innervation in the sucking-pump muscles was absent. The results are discussed in the frame of a role of 5-HT in feeding control in ants.

  3. A global database of ant species abundances

    USGS Publications Warehouse

    Gibb, Heloise; Dunn, Rob R.; Sanders, Nathan J.; Grossman, Blair F.; Photakis, Manoli; Abril, Silvia; Agosti, Donat; Andersen, Alan N.; Angulo, Elena; Armbrecht, Ingre; Arnan, Xavier; Baccaro, Fabricio B.; Bishop, Tom R.; Boulay, Raphael; Bruhl, Carsten; Castracani, Cristina; Cerda, Xim; Del Toro, Israel; Delsinne, Thibaut; Diaz, Mireia; Donoso, David A.; Ellison, Aaron M.; Enriquez, Martha L.; Fayle, Tom M.; Feener Jr., Donald H.; Fisher, Brian L.; Fisher, Robert N.; Fitpatrick, Matthew C.; Gomez, Cristanto; Gotelli, Nicholas J.; Gove, Aaron; Grasso, Donato A.; Groc, Sarah; Guenard, Benoit; Gunawardene, Nihara; Heterick, Brian; Hoffmann, Benjamin; Janda, Milan; Jenkins, Clinton; Kaspari, Michael; Klimes, Petr; Lach, Lori; Laeger, Thomas; Lattke, John; Leponce, Maurice; Lessard, Jean-Philippe; Longino, John; Lucky, Andrea; Luke, Sarah H.; Majer, Jonathan; McGlynn, Terrence P.; Menke, Sean; Mezger, Dirk; Mori, Alessandra; Moses, Jimmy; Munyai, Thinandavha Caswell; Pacheco, Renata; Paknia, Omid; Pearce-Duvet, Jessica; Pfeiffer, Martin; Philpott, Stacy M.; Resasco, Julian; Retana, Javier; Silva, Rogerio R.; Sorger, Magdalena D.; Souza, Jorge; Suarez, Andrew V.; Tista, Melanie; Vasconcelos, Heraldo L.; Vonshak, Merav; Weiser, Michael D.; Yates, Michelle; Parr, Catherine L.

    2017-01-01

    What forces structure ecological assemblages? A key limitation to general insights about assemblage structure is the availability of data that are collected at a small spatial grain (local assemblages) and a large spatial extent (global coverage). Here, we present published and unpublished data from 51,388 ant abundance and occurrence records of more than 2693 species and 7953 morphospecies from local assemblages collected at 4212 locations around the world. Ants were selected because they are diverse and abundant globally, comprise a large fraction of animal biomass in most terrestrial communities, and are key contributors to a range of ecosystem functions. Data were collected between 1949 and 2014, and include, for each geo-referenced sampling site, both the identity of the ants collected and details of sampling design, habitat type and degree of disturbance. The aim of compiling this dataset was to provide comprehensive species abundance data in order to test relationships between assemblage structure and environmental and biogeographic factors. Data were collected using a variety of standardised methods, such as pitfall and Winkler traps, and will be valuable for studies investigating large-scale forces structuring local assemblages. Understanding such relationships is particularly critical under current rates of global change. We encourage authors holding additional data on systematically collected ant assemblages, especially those in dry and cold, and remote areas, to contact us and contribute their data to this growing dataset.

  4. Water surface locomotion in tropical canopy ants.

    PubMed

    Yanoviak, S P; Frederick, D N

    2014-06-15

    Upon falling onto the water surface, most terrestrial arthropods helplessly struggle and are quickly eaten by aquatic predators. Exceptions to this outcome mostly occur among riparian taxa that escape by walking or swimming at the water surface. Here we document sustained, directional, neustonic locomotion (i.e. surface swimming) in tropical arboreal ants. We dropped 35 species of ants into natural and artificial aquatic settings in Peru and Panama to assess their swimming ability. Ten species showed directed surface swimming at speeds >3 body lengths s(-1), with some swimming at absolute speeds >10 cm s(-1). Ten other species exhibited partial swimming ability characterized by relatively slow but directed movement. The remaining species showed no locomotory control at the surface. The phylogenetic distribution of swimming among ant genera indicates parallel evolution and a trend toward negative association with directed aerial descent behavior. Experiments with workers of Odontomachus bauri showed that they escape from the water by directing their swimming toward dark emergent objects (i.e. skototaxis). Analyses of high-speed video images indicate that Pachycondyla spp. and O. bauri use a modified alternating tripod gait when swimming; they generate thrust at the water surface via synchronized treading and rowing motions of the contralateral fore and mid legs, respectively, while the hind legs provide roll stability. These results expand the list of facultatively neustonic terrestrial taxa to include various species of tropical arboreal ants. © 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.

  5. The Kanizsa triangle illusion in foraging ants.

    PubMed

    Sakiyama, Tomoko; Gunji, Yukio-Pegio

    2016-01-01

    The Kanizsa triangle, wherein three Pac-Man configurations symmetrically face inwards, is a well-known illusion. By exposing foraging ants (Lasius niger) to Kanizsa-shaped honeydew solutions, we studied the origin of this illusion. More specifically, we examined whether foraging ants showed different movement reactions to local honeydew patterns formed by nestmates. This novel phenomenon could serve as an abstract model of the Kanizsa triangle illusion under the assumption that such an illusion could arise through the sum of each agent's limited global cognitions, because each agent could not perceive the entire subjective contours. Even a subjective consciousness consists of some parts which have no identical perception and could be an illusion. We succeeded in inducing foragers to move along the sides of a Kanizsa triangle when Pac-Man-shaped inducers were introduced. Furthermore, foragers appeared to form Y-shaped trajectories when dot-shaped or inverse Kanizsa inducers were used. Based on our findings, we propose an agent-based ant model that compares modelled behaviour with experimental phenomena. Our abstract model could be used to explain such cognitive phenomena for bottom-up processes, because ants cannot perceive the given subjective contours, instead simply move along the edges.

  6. Hey! A Fire Ant Stung Me!

    MedlinePlus

    ... nest in the ground, and then create a mound of dirt over the nest. These mounds can grow up to 18 inches high and ... burning. Someone who steps on a fire ant mound will get a lot of stings at once ...

  7. Operant conditioning in the ant Myrmica sabuleti.

    PubMed

    Cammaerts, M C

    2004-11-30

    Operant conditioning could be obtained in the ant Myrmica sabuleti by presenting to the workers, during a six-day period, an apparatus containing either sugared water or meat as a reward. The conditioning obtained using sugared water as a reward was short lasting. A reconditioning was more persistent and lasted four hours. The ants' response was very precise, since they exhibited it only in front of an apparatus identical to that used during the training phase. Operant conditioning obtained using meat as a reward was more pronounced than that obtained by using sugared water, probably because meat is more valuable as a reward than sugar for the species studied, which is essentially a carnivorous one. Such a conditioning was rather persistent. Indeed, a first operant conditioning obtained by using meat as a reward could still be detected after seven hours, and a reconditioning was still significant after eight hours. One day after this eight-hour period without rewarding the ants, the response was higher again and a further day later, it was still significant. Since the operant conditioning is easy to perform and quantify and since the ants' response is very precise, such a conditioning can be used for further studying M. sabuleti workers' visual perception.

  8. Ant species identity mediates reproductive traits and allocation in an ant-garden bromeliad

    PubMed Central

    Leroy, Céline; Corbara, Bruno; Pélozuelo, Laurent; Carrias, Jean-François; Dejean, Alain; Céréghino, Régis

    2012-01-01

    Background and Aims Determining the sources of variation in floral morphology is crucial to understanding the mechanisms underlying Angiosperm evolution. The selection of floral and reproductive traits is influenced by the plant's abiotic environment, florivores and pollinators. However, evidence that variations in floral traits result from mutualistic interactions with insects other than pollinators is lacking in the published literature and has rarely been investigated. We aimed to determine whether the association with either Camponotus femoratus or Pachycondyla goeldii (both involved in seed dispersal and plant protection) mediates the reproductive traits and allocation of Aechmea mertensii, an obligatory ant-garden tank-bromeliad, differently. Methods Floral and reproductive traits were compared between the two A. mertensii ant-gardens. The nitrogen flux from the ants to the bromeliads was investigated through experimental enrichments with stable isotopes (15N). Key Results Camponotus femoratus-associated bromeliads produced inflorescences up to four times longer than did P. goeldii-associated bromeliads. Also, the numbers of flowers and fruits were close to four times higher, and the number of seeds and their mass per fruit were close to 1·5 times higher in C. femoratus than in P. goeldii-associated bromeliads. Furthermore, the 15N-enrichment experiment showed that C. femoratus-associated bromeliads received more nitrogen from ants than did P. goeldii-associated bromeliads, with subsequent positive repercussions on floral development. Greater benefits were conferred to A. mertensii by the association with C. femoratus compared with P. goeldii ants. Conclusions We show for the first time that mutualistic associations with ants can result in an enhanced reproductive allocation for the bromeliad A. mertensii. Nevertheless, the strength and direction of the selection of floral and fruit traits change based on the ant species and were not related to light

  9. Can the Argentine ant ( Linepithema humile Mayr) replace native ants in myrmecochory?

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Gómez, Crisanto; Oliveras, Jordi

    2003-04-01

    We analyse the influence of the Argentine ant ( Linepithema humile Mayr) on the seed dispersal process of the myrmecochorous plants Euphorbia characias, E. biumbellata, Genista linifolia, G. triflora, G. monspessulana and Sarothamnus arboreus. The observations were made in two study plots of Mediterranean cork-oak secondary forest (invaded and non-invaded by L. humile). The presence of L. humile implies the displacement of all native ant species that disperse seeds. Seed transports in the non-invaded zone were carried out by eight ant species. In the invaded zone, L. humile workers removed and transported seeds to the nest. In vertebrate exclusion trials, we observed the same level of seed removal in the invaded and non-invaded zones. Two findings could explain this result. Although mean time to seed localization was higher for native ants (431.7 s) than that for L. humile (150.5 s), the mean proportion of seeds transported after being detected was higher (50.1%) in non-invaded than in invaded (16.8%) zones. The proportion of seeds removed and transported into an ant nest after an ant-seed interaction had dramatically reduced from non-invaded (41.9%) to invaded (7.4%) zones. The levels of seed dispersal by ants found prior to invasion are unlikely to be maintained in invaded zones. However, total replacement of seed dispersal function is possible if contact iteration finally offers similar levels or quantities of seeds reaching the nests. The results obtained confirm that the Argentine ant invasion may affect myrmecochory dramatically in the Mediterranean biome.

  10. Comparative study of nest architecture and colony structure of the fungus-growing ants, Mycocepurus goeldii and M. smithii.

    PubMed

    Rabeling, C; Verhaagh, M; Engels, W

    2007-01-01

    Nest architecture and demography of the non leaf-cutting fungus-growing ant species Mycocepurus goeldii and M. smithii (Attini: Formicidae) were studied in an agroforest habitat near Manaus, Brazil during the excavation of 13 nests. Both species built their nests in two different ways. The first type possessed a "tree-like" architecture, in which a vertical tunnel led downwards and lateral tunnels branched off at 90 degrees angles from the main tunnel, with a chamber at the end of each side branch. Alternatively, other nests displayed a "necklace-like" architecture, where the main tunnel also led down vertically, but entered each chamber from the top and exited it at the bottom, resulting in an architecture where chambers appeared like pearls on a necklace. The nest systems of M. goeldii and M. smithii consisted of 1-21 or 1-15 chambers, respectively. Of 199 excavated chambers, 57 % contained fungus-gardens. Chambers not containing fungus gardens were filled with organic matter from decaying fungus gardens or earthworm feces. Only M. smithii workers deposited loose soil in abandoned chambers during the construction of new nest chambers. Workers of M. smithii constructed significantly smaller chambers than those of M. goeldii. In both species, fungus garden-containing chambers were larger than non-garden chambers and were homogenously distributed in the soil between 17 cm and 105 cm depth. Neither fungus gardens nor abandoned chambers were encountered more frequently in deeper or shallower soil strata indicating that ants of both species did not abandon shallower versus deeper chambers, or move the colony to deeper soil layers with increasing colony age. Fungus gardens were suspended from the ceiling of the subterranean chambers and originated as small mycelial tufts. Through continual addition of organic debris, the tufts first grew vertically to strands before they expanded laterally until most of the chamber volume was filled with fungus garden curtains. New

  11. Experimental Study of the Dynamics of Foraging Ants

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Walker, J. I.; Fetzner, R. P.; Baxter, G. W.

    2006-03-01

    We study the search paths of foraging ants in order to describe their behavior mathematically. Ants have become popular as simple agents in models of artificial life. Here, the ant is presented the problem of finding food when no food cues are present. In this experiment, individual ants (Formicinae lasius flavus) are allowed to forage on a two-dimensional textured surface in the absence of a food source. The position of the ant as a function of time is determined with a high resolution digital camera. The scaling properties of the resulting foraging paths compare favorably with those of certain types of random walk.

  12. The interactions of ants with their biotic environment

    PubMed Central

    Renner, Susanne S.

    2017-01-01

    This special feature results from the symposium ‘Ants 2016: ant interactions with their biotic environments’ held in Munich in May 2016 and deals with the interactions between ants and other insects, plants, microbes and fungi, studied at micro- and macroevolutionary levels with a wide range of approaches, from field ecology to next-generation sequencing, chemical ecology and molecular genetics. In this paper, we review key aspects of these biotic interactions to provide background information for the papers of this special feature. After listing the major types of biotic interactions that ants engage in, we present a brief overview of ant/ant communication, ant/plant interactions, ant/fungus symbioses, and recent insights about ants and their endosymbionts. Using a large molecular clock-dated Formicidae phylogeny, we map the evolutionary origins of different ant clades' interactions with plants, fungi and hemiptera. Ants' biotic interactions provide ideal systems to address fundamental ecological and evolutionary questions about mutualism, coevolution, adaptation and animal communication. PMID:28298352

  13. Ant species confer different partner benefits on two neotropical myrmecophytes.

    PubMed

    Frederickson, Megan E

    2005-04-01

    The dynamics of mutualistic interactions involving more than a single pair of species depend on the relative costs and benefits of interaction among alternative partners. The neotropical myrmecophytes Cordia nodosa and Duroia hirsuta associate with several species of obligately symbiotic ants. I compared the ant partners of Cordia and Duroia with respect to two benefits known to be important in ant-myrmecophyte interactions: protection against herbivores provided by ants, and protection against encroaching vegetation provided by ants. Azteca spp., Myrmelachista schumanni, and Allomerus octoarticulatus demerarae ants all provide the leaves of Cordia and Duroia some protection against herbivores. However, Azteca and Allomerus provide more protection than does Myrmelachista to the leaves of their host plants. Although Allomerus protects the leaves of its hosts, plants occupied by Allomerus suffer more attacks by herbivores to their stems than do plants occupied by other ants. Relative to Azteca or Allomerus, Myrmelachista ants provide better protection against encroaching vegetation, increasing canopy openness over their host plants. These differences in benefits among the ant partners of Cordia and Duroia are reflected in the effect of each ant species on host plant size, growth rate, and reproduction. The results of this study show how mutualistic ant partners can differ with respect to both the magnitude and type of benefits they provide to the same species of myrmecophytic host.

  14. Fast and Flexible: Argentine Ants Recruit from Nearby Trails

    PubMed Central

    Flanagan, Tatiana P.; Pinter-Wollman, Noa M.; Moses, Melanie E.; Gordon, Deborah M.

    2013-01-01

    Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) live in groups of nests connected by trails to each other and to stable food sources. In a field study, we investigated whether some ants recruit directly from established, persistent trails to food sources, thus accelerating food collection. Our results indicate that Argentine ants recruit nestmates to food directly from persistent trails, and that the exponential increase in the arrival rate of ants at baits is faster than would be possible if recruited ants traveled from distant nests. Once ants find a new food source, they walk back and forth between the bait and sometimes share food by trophallaxis with nestmates on the trail. Recruiting ants from nearby persistent trails creates a dynamic circuit, like those found in other distributed systems, which facilitates a quick response to changes in available resources. PMID:23967129

  15. Host ant independent oviposition in the parasitic butterfly Maculinea alcon

    PubMed Central

    Fürst, Matthias A.; Nash, David R.

    2010-01-01

    Parasitic Maculinea alcon butterflies can only develop in nests of a subset of available Myrmica ant species, so female butterflies have been hypothesized to preferentially lay eggs on plants close to colonies of the correct host ants. Previous correlational investigations of host-ant-dependent oviposition in this and other Maculinea species have, however, shown equivocal results, leading to a long-term controversy over support for this hypothesis. We therefore conducted a controlled field experiment to study the egg-laying behaviour of M. alcon. Matched potted Gentiana plants were set out close to host-ant nests and non-host-ant nests, and the number and position of eggs attached were assessed. Our results show no evidence for host-ant-based oviposition in M. alcon, but support an oviposition strategy based on plant characteristics. This suggests that careful management of host-ant distribution is necessary for conservation of this endangered butterfly. PMID:19864269

  16. Exploring with PAM: Prospecting ANTS Missions for Solar System Surveys

    NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS)

    Clark, P. E.; Rilee, M. L.; Curtis, S. A.

    2003-01-01

    ANTS (Autonomous Nano-Technology Swarm), a large (1000 member) swarm of nano to picoclass (10 to 1 kg) totally autonomous spacecraft, are being developed as a NASA advanced mission concept. ANTS, based on a hierarchical insect social order, use an evolvable, self-similar, hierarchical neural system in which individual spacecraft represent the highest level nodes. ANTS uses swarm intelligence attained through collective, cooperative interactions of the nodes at all levels of the system. At the highest levels this can take the form of cooperative, collective behavior among the individual spacecraft in a very large constellation. The ANTS neural architecture is designed for totally autonomous operation of complex systems including spacecraft constellations. The ANTS (Autonomous Nano Technology Swarm) concept has a number of possible applications. A version of ANTS designed for surveying and determining the resource potential of the asteroid belt, called PAM (Prospecting ANTS Mission), is examined here.

  17. Harvester ant bioassay for assessing hazardous chemical waste sites

    SciTech Connect

    Gano, K.A.; Carlile, D.W.; Rogers, L.E.

    1984-12-01

    A technique was developed for using harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex owhyeei, in terrestrial bioassays. Procedures were developed for maintaining stock populations, handling ants, and exposing ants to toxic materials. Relative toxicities were determined by exposing ants to 10 different materials. These materials included three insecticides, Endrin, Aldrin, and Dieldrin; one herbicide, 2,4-D; three oil-like compounds, wood preservative, drilling fluid, and slop oil; and three heavy metals, copper, zinc, and cadmium. Ants were exposed in petri dishes containing soil amended with a particular toxicant. Under these test conditions, ants showed no sensitivity to the metals or 2,4-D. Ants were sensitive to the insecticides and oils in repeated tests, and relative toxicity remained consistent throughout. Aldrin was the most toxic material, followed by Dieldrin, Endrin, wood preservative, drilling fluid, and slop oil. 10 refs., 2 figs., 2 tabs.

  18. Extrafloral nectar content alters foraging preferences of a predatory ant

    PubMed Central

    Wilder, Shawn M.; Eubanks, Micky D.

    2010-01-01

    We tested whether the carbohydrate and amino acid content of extrafloral nectar affected prey choice by a predatory ant. Fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, were provided with artificial nectar that varied in the presence of carbohydrates and amino acids and were then provided with two prey items that differed in nutritional content, female and male crickets. Colonies of fire ants provided with carbohydrate supplements consumed less of the female crickets and frequently did not consume the high-lipid ovaries of female crickets. Colonies of fire ants provided with amino acid supplements consumed less of the male crickets. While a number of studies have shown that the presence of extrafloral nectar or honeydew can affect ant foraging activity, these results suggest that the nutritional composition of extrafloral nectar is also important and can affect subsequent prey choice by predatory ants. Our results suggest that, by altering the composition of extrafloral nectar, plants could manipulate the prey preferences of ants foraging on them. PMID:19864270

  19. Extrafloral nectar content alters foraging preferences of a predatory ant.

    PubMed

    Wilder, Shawn M; Eubanks, Micky D

    2010-04-23

    We tested whether the carbohydrate and amino acid content of extrafloral nectar affected prey choice by a predatory ant. Fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, were provided with artificial nectar that varied in the presence of carbohydrates and amino acids and were then provided with two prey items that differed in nutritional content, female and male crickets. Colonies of fire ants provided with carbohydrate supplements consumed less of the female crickets and frequently did not consume the high-lipid ovaries of female crickets. Colonies of fire ants provided with amino acid supplements consumed less of the male crickets. While a number of studies have shown that the presence of extrafloral nectar or honeydew can affect ant foraging activity, these results suggest that the nutritional composition of extrafloral nectar is also important and can affect subsequent prey choice by predatory ants. Our results suggest that, by altering the composition of extrafloral nectar, plants could manipulate the prey preferences of ants foraging on them.

  20. Parallel Ant-Miner (PAM) on High Performance Clusters

    NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

    Chintalapati, Janaki; Arvind, M.; Priyanka, S.; Mangala, N.; Valadi, Jayaraman

    This study implements parallelization of Ant-Miner for classification rules discovery. Ant-Miner code is parallelized and optimized in a cluster environment by employing master-slave model. The parallelization is achieved in two different operations of Ant-Miner viz. discretization of continuous attributes and rule construction by ants. For rule mining operation, ants are equally distributed into groups and sent across the different cluster nodes. The performance study of Parallel Ant-Miner (PAM) employs different publicly available datasets. The results indicate remarkable improvement in computational time without compromising on the classification accuracy and quality of discovered rules. Dermatology data having 33 features and musk data having 168 features were taken to study performance with respect to timings. Speedup almost equivalent to ideal speedup was obtained on 8 CPUs with increase in number of features and number of ants. Also performance with respect to accuracies was done using lung cancer data.

  1. Red legs and golden gasters: Batesian mimicry in Australian ants.

    PubMed

    Merrill, D N; Elgar, M A

    2000-05-01

    There are numerous reports of invertebrates that are visual mimics of ants, but no formal reports of mimicry of an ant, by an ant. Two endemic Australian ants, Myrmecia fulvipes and Camponotus bendigensis are remarkably similar in colour and size; both are generally black but have red legs and golden gasters. The density and hue of the pubescence of each ant's gaster are relatively uncommon in ants, but are very rare when combined with the black forebody and red legs. The ants are similarly sized but are smaller than other species closely related to M. fulvipes. The range of C. bendigensis lies entirely within that of M. fulvipes, and both species excavate ground nests in open woodland. Finally, workers of both species are cr