Myrmecophilous aphids produce cuticular hydrocarbons that resemble those of their tending ants
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- Endo, S. & Itino, T. Popul Ecol (2013) 55: 27. doi:10.1007/s10144-012-0355-0
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Aphid-tending ants protect aphids from natural enemies and collect honeydew secreted by the aphids. However, ants also often prey on the aphids they attend. Aphids, therefore, like social parasites of ants, may well have evolved chemical mimicry as an anti-predation strategy. In this study, we aimed to determine whether the aphid Stomaphis yanonis actively produces cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) that resemble those of the tending ant Lasius fuji. In the wild, ants put their CHCs on the aphids that they are tending, so in this study we analyzed “ant-free” aphids. Mature aphids that exuviated in the absence of ant attendance had almost all of the hydrocarbon components that the ants’ CHCs had. Moreover, hydrocarbons artificially applied to the aphids’ body surface were lost by exuviation. Taken together, these findings indicate that mature aphids actively produced ant-like CHCs, and they constitute the first documentation of a chemical resemblance between aphids and ants in a specific aphid–ant association.