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The Pied Piper: A Parasitic Beetle's Melodies Modulate Ant Behaviours.

Di Giulio A, Maurizi E, Barbero F, Sala M, Fattorini S, Balletto E, Bonelli S - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: We found that Paussus can "speak" three different "languages", each similar to sounds produced by different ant castes (workers, soldiers, queen).Our data suggest that, by mimicking the stridulations of the queen, Paussus is able to dupe the workers of its host and to be treated as royalty.This is the first report of acoustic mimicry in a beetle parasite of ants.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Science, University Roma Tre, Viale G. Marconi 446, I-00146 Rome, Italy.

ABSTRACT
Ants use various communication channels to regulate their social organisation. The main channel that drives almost all the ants' activities and behaviours is the chemical one, but it is long acknowledged that the acoustic channel also plays an important role. However, very little is known regarding exploitation of the acoustical channel by myrmecophile parasites to infiltrate the ant society. Among social parasites, the ant nest beetles (Paussus) are obligate myrmecophiles able to move throughout the colony at will and prey on the ants, surprisingly never eliciting aggression from the colonies. It has been recently postulated that stridulatory organs in Paussus might be evolved as an acoustic mechanism to interact with ants. Here, we survey the role of acoustic signals employed in the Paussus beetle-Pheidole ant system. Ants parasitised by Paussus beetles produce caste-specific stridulations. We found that Paussus can "speak" three different "languages", each similar to sounds produced by different ant castes (workers, soldiers, queen). Playback experiments were used to test how host ants respond to the sounds emitted by Paussus. Our data suggest that, by mimicking the stridulations of the queen, Paussus is able to dupe the workers of its host and to be treated as royalty. This is the first report of acoustic mimicry in a beetle parasite of ants.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Comparative morphology of stridulatory organs of the ant Pheidole pallidula (a) and the beetle Paussus favieri (b).This figure shows clear similarities between the two structures. A1: P. pallidula worker (photo M. Muzzi), arrow indicates the position of the stridulatory organ. A2–A5: SEM micrographs of stridulatory organ of P. pallidula composed by a suboval and minutely ridged “file” (A2), placed on the meso-dorsal part of the first gastral segment (i.e. the fourth abdominal segment), and a “scraper” (A3, rectangular window), consisting of a medial cuticular prominence (A4, arrow) that originates from the posterior edge of the postpetiole (i.e. the third abdominal tergite) (A3); A5 represents a close-up of the ridged stridulatory file of A2. P. pallidula stridulates by quickly moving the gaster up and down. B1: P. favieri (male specimen, photo M. Muzzi), arrows indicate the position of the two stridulatory organs. B2–B5: SEM micrographs of right stridulatory organ of P. favieri, composed by a suboval, slightly raised and minutely ridged “file” (B2) positioned basally on the inner surface of the hind femora, rubbing against a “scraper” (B3) composed of a curved row of small cuticular spines (B4, close-up of rectangular window in B3) positioned at both sides of the proximal abdominal segment; B5 represents a close-up of the ridged stridulatory file of B2. P. favieri stridulates by shaking its posterior legs, singly or in combination.
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pone.0130541.g001: Comparative morphology of stridulatory organs of the ant Pheidole pallidula (a) and the beetle Paussus favieri (b).This figure shows clear similarities between the two structures. A1: P. pallidula worker (photo M. Muzzi), arrow indicates the position of the stridulatory organ. A2–A5: SEM micrographs of stridulatory organ of P. pallidula composed by a suboval and minutely ridged “file” (A2), placed on the meso-dorsal part of the first gastral segment (i.e. the fourth abdominal segment), and a “scraper” (A3, rectangular window), consisting of a medial cuticular prominence (A4, arrow) that originates from the posterior edge of the postpetiole (i.e. the third abdominal tergite) (A3); A5 represents a close-up of the ridged stridulatory file of A2. P. pallidula stridulates by quickly moving the gaster up and down. B1: P. favieri (male specimen, photo M. Muzzi), arrows indicate the position of the two stridulatory organs. B2–B5: SEM micrographs of right stridulatory organ of P. favieri, composed by a suboval, slightly raised and minutely ridged “file” (B2) positioned basally on the inner surface of the hind femora, rubbing against a “scraper” (B3) composed of a curved row of small cuticular spines (B4, close-up of rectangular window in B3) positioned at both sides of the proximal abdominal segment; B5 represents a close-up of the ridged stridulatory file of B2. P. favieri stridulates by shaking its posterior legs, singly or in combination.

Mentions: However, it has been long acknowledged that the acoustic channel of communication also plays an important role in the organization of ant societies (see references in [8–10]). Adults of Ponerinae, Nothomyrmecinae, Pseudomyrmecinae and Myrmecinae ants are able to produce stridulations consisting of low frequency sounds (a series of repeated ‘chirps’), by rubbing a tergal carena, called the “scraper” or plectrum (Fig 1, 1A3 and 1A4), against a minutely ridged area, called the “file” or pars stridens (Fig 1, 1A2 and 1A5), placed between two abdominal segments [1,11,12]. Ants produce such acoustical signals for various purposes, including social organization, recruitment, mating, or help request [13].


The Pied Piper: A Parasitic Beetle's Melodies Modulate Ant Behaviours.

Di Giulio A, Maurizi E, Barbero F, Sala M, Fattorini S, Balletto E, Bonelli S - PLoS ONE (2015)

Comparative morphology of stridulatory organs of the ant Pheidole pallidula (a) and the beetle Paussus favieri (b).This figure shows clear similarities between the two structures. A1: P. pallidula worker (photo M. Muzzi), arrow indicates the position of the stridulatory organ. A2–A5: SEM micrographs of stridulatory organ of P. pallidula composed by a suboval and minutely ridged “file” (A2), placed on the meso-dorsal part of the first gastral segment (i.e. the fourth abdominal segment), and a “scraper” (A3, rectangular window), consisting of a medial cuticular prominence (A4, arrow) that originates from the posterior edge of the postpetiole (i.e. the third abdominal tergite) (A3); A5 represents a close-up of the ridged stridulatory file of A2. P. pallidula stridulates by quickly moving the gaster up and down. B1: P. favieri (male specimen, photo M. Muzzi), arrows indicate the position of the two stridulatory organs. B2–B5: SEM micrographs of right stridulatory organ of P. favieri, composed by a suboval, slightly raised and minutely ridged “file” (B2) positioned basally on the inner surface of the hind femora, rubbing against a “scraper” (B3) composed of a curved row of small cuticular spines (B4, close-up of rectangular window in B3) positioned at both sides of the proximal abdominal segment; B5 represents a close-up of the ridged stridulatory file of B2. P. favieri stridulates by shaking its posterior legs, singly or in combination.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4496082&req=5

pone.0130541.g001: Comparative morphology of stridulatory organs of the ant Pheidole pallidula (a) and the beetle Paussus favieri (b).This figure shows clear similarities between the two structures. A1: P. pallidula worker (photo M. Muzzi), arrow indicates the position of the stridulatory organ. A2–A5: SEM micrographs of stridulatory organ of P. pallidula composed by a suboval and minutely ridged “file” (A2), placed on the meso-dorsal part of the first gastral segment (i.e. the fourth abdominal segment), and a “scraper” (A3, rectangular window), consisting of a medial cuticular prominence (A4, arrow) that originates from the posterior edge of the postpetiole (i.e. the third abdominal tergite) (A3); A5 represents a close-up of the ridged stridulatory file of A2. P. pallidula stridulates by quickly moving the gaster up and down. B1: P. favieri (male specimen, photo M. Muzzi), arrows indicate the position of the two stridulatory organs. B2–B5: SEM micrographs of right stridulatory organ of P. favieri, composed by a suboval, slightly raised and minutely ridged “file” (B2) positioned basally on the inner surface of the hind femora, rubbing against a “scraper” (B3) composed of a curved row of small cuticular spines (B4, close-up of rectangular window in B3) positioned at both sides of the proximal abdominal segment; B5 represents a close-up of the ridged stridulatory file of B2. P. favieri stridulates by shaking its posterior legs, singly or in combination.
Mentions: However, it has been long acknowledged that the acoustic channel of communication also plays an important role in the organization of ant societies (see references in [8–10]). Adults of Ponerinae, Nothomyrmecinae, Pseudomyrmecinae and Myrmecinae ants are able to produce stridulations consisting of low frequency sounds (a series of repeated ‘chirps’), by rubbing a tergal carena, called the “scraper” or plectrum (Fig 1, 1A3 and 1A4), against a minutely ridged area, called the “file” or pars stridens (Fig 1, 1A2 and 1A5), placed between two abdominal segments [1,11,12]. Ants produce such acoustical signals for various purposes, including social organization, recruitment, mating, or help request [13].

Bottom Line: We found that Paussus can "speak" three different "languages", each similar to sounds produced by different ant castes (workers, soldiers, queen).Our data suggest that, by mimicking the stridulations of the queen, Paussus is able to dupe the workers of its host and to be treated as royalty.This is the first report of acoustic mimicry in a beetle parasite of ants.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Science, University Roma Tre, Viale G. Marconi 446, I-00146 Rome, Italy.

ABSTRACT
Ants use various communication channels to regulate their social organisation. The main channel that drives almost all the ants' activities and behaviours is the chemical one, but it is long acknowledged that the acoustic channel also plays an important role. However, very little is known regarding exploitation of the acoustical channel by myrmecophile parasites to infiltrate the ant society. Among social parasites, the ant nest beetles (Paussus) are obligate myrmecophiles able to move throughout the colony at will and prey on the ants, surprisingly never eliciting aggression from the colonies. It has been recently postulated that stridulatory organs in Paussus might be evolved as an acoustic mechanism to interact with ants. Here, we survey the role of acoustic signals employed in the Paussus beetle-Pheidole ant system. Ants parasitised by Paussus beetles produce caste-specific stridulations. We found that Paussus can "speak" three different "languages", each similar to sounds produced by different ant castes (workers, soldiers, queen). Playback experiments were used to test how host ants respond to the sounds emitted by Paussus. Our data suggest that, by mimicking the stridulations of the queen, Paussus is able to dupe the workers of its host and to be treated as royalty. This is the first report of acoustic mimicry in a beetle parasite of ants.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus