Chemical Integration of Myrmecophilous Guests in Aphaenogaster Ant NestsReport as inadecuate

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PsycheVolume 2012 2012, Article ID 840860, 12 pages

Research Article

Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l’Insecte, IRBI, UMR CNRS 7261, Université François Rabelais, 37200 Tours, France

Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, 41092 Seville, Spain

Department of Forest Protection and Game Management, Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences, Praha, Czech Republic

Departamento de Biología Animal, Universidad de Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain

Received 13 October 2011; Accepted 7 December 2011

Academic Editor: Jean Paul Lachaud

Copyright © 2012 Alain Lenoir et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Social insect nests provide a safe and favourable shelter to many guests and parasites. In Aphaenogaster senilis nests many guests are tolerated. Among them we studied the chemical integration of two myrmecophile beetles, Sternocoelis hispanus Coleoptera: Histeridae and Chitosa nigrita Coleoptera: Staphylinidae, and a silverfish. Silverfishes bear low quantities of the host hydrocarbons chemical insignificance, acquired probably passively, and they do not match the colony odour. Both beetle species use chemical mimicry to be accepted; they have the same specific cuticular hydrocarbon profile as their host. They also match the ant colony odour, but they keep some specificity and can be recognised by the ants as a different element. Sternocoelis are always adopted in other conspecific colonies of A. senilis with different delays. They are adopted in the twin species A. iberica but never in A. simonellii or A. subterranea. They are readopted easily into their mother colony after an isolation of different durations until one month. After isolation they keep their hydrocarbons quantity, showing that they are able to synthesize them. Nevertheless, their profile diverges from the host colony, indicating that they adjust it in contact with the hosts. This had never been demonstrated before in myrmecophile beetles. We suggest that the chemical mimicry of Sternocoelis is the result of a coevolution with A. senilis with a possible cleaning symbiosis.

Author: Alain Lenoir, Quentin Chalon, Ana Carvajal, Camille Ruel, Ángel Barroso, Tomáš Lackner, and Raphaël Boulay



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