Advertisement

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 171–184 | Cite as

The migrating herdsman Dolichoderus (Diabolus) cuspidatus: an ant with a novel mode of life

  • Ulrich Maschwitz
  • Heinz Hänel
Article
  • 109 Downloads

Summary

The Malayan ant Dolichoderus cuspidatus lives in obligatory symbiosis with the pseudococcid Malaicoccus formicarii and other species of the same genus. The assemblies, which may be encountered up to 25 m away from the nest, are constantly covered with a great number of worker ants who protect them and receive honeydew. In the event of heavy rain the workers from a dense protective cluster, clinging to each other on top of the mealybugs. Neither hunting behavior nor active search for protein sources was observed in D. cuspidatus, although dead insects were accepted as food. When not searching for new plants, the activity of the ants outside the colony is limited to visiting the mealybugs. During the night and parts of the day the ants stay in their nest. Ant colonies deprived of their mealybugs are not viable due to their dependence on the symbiosis and because of the competition of other ants. Antless M. formicarii are likewise not viable. The mealybugs are extremely polyphagous and feed on many different monocotylous and dicotylous angiosperms. They feed exclusively on the phloem sap of young plant parts which are rich in amino acids. Dolichoderus cuspidatus workers carry the mealybugs to such locations. During the picking up and carrying process both partners display typical behavioral patterns. The colonization of new feeding sites takes place in well organized mass processions. During the foundation or disintegration of large feeding complexes, provisional depots with waiting mealybugs and ants are set up. The pseudococcids are carried not only while shifting the feeding sites, but also whenever the colony leaves its former nesting site and especially when any kind of disturbance occurs. They are even carried about without any apparent external cause, which leads to the fact that, at all times of trail activity, on average more than 10% of all ants using the trails carry mealybugs. Mealybugs are also present within the nest, especially adult females which are viviparous and give birth to their offspring there. Censused colonies each consisted of over 10 000 workers, about 4000 larvae and pupae, more than 5000 mealybugs and one ergatoid queen. Male winged ants were observed in large numbers during the dry season (January–February) and during the rainy season (September–October). The colonies form typical clumplike bivouac nests consisting of clusters of workers clinging to each other, thereby covering the brood and the mealybugs. The nesting site is in no way altered by constructive measures and is mostly found close to the ground. The preferred nesting sites are clusters of leaves, and cavities in wood or soil, although a freely hanging bivouac between a few branches may be set up as well. As soon as the distance between the nest and the feeding site is too great the colony moves to the feeding site, whereby the brood and the mealybugs are carried along in a well organized manner. During such nest-moving the establishment of intermediate depots can be observed. A shift of nest sites can also be induced by disturbances or by a change in the microclimate in the vicinity of the nest. Colonies multiply by budding. The tropical rain forest continuously offers different sprouting plants, the utilization of which requires extreme mobility on the part of the consumer. The unique behavioral strategy of D. cuspidatus, to carry constantly their polyphagous mealybug partners to new feeding sites and to take the whole colony there has enabled this ant and its symbiont to occupy this rich food niche. Dolichoderus cuspidatus is the first true nomad found in ants.

Keywords

Nest Site Tropical Rain Forest Rich Food Feeding Site Obligatory Symbiosis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bünzli GH (1935) Untersuchungen über coccidophile Ameisen aus den Kaffeefeldern von Surinam. Mitt Schweiz Entomol Ges 16:455–581Google Scholar
  2. Ehrendorfer F (1983) In: Strasburger E, Noll F, Schenck H, Schimper AFW (Hrsg) Lehrbuch der Botanik für Hochschulen, Fischer, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  3. Flanders SE (1957) The complete interdependence of an ant and a coccid. Ecology 30:535–536Google Scholar
  4. Gotwald WH (1982) Army ants. In: Hermann HR (ed) Social insects IV. Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1978) Multiple recruitment system of the African Weaver ant Oecophylla longinoda. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 3:19–60Google Scholar
  6. Luckner M (1969) Der Sekundärstoffwechsel in Pflanze und Tier. Fischer, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  7. Pontin AJ (1958) A preliminary note on the eating of aphids by ants of the genus Lasius. Entomol Mon Mag 95:154–155Google Scholar
  8. Pontin AJ (1961) The prey of Lasius niger and L. flavus. Entomol Mon Mag 97:135–137Google Scholar
  9. Pontin AJ (1978) The numbers and distribution of subterranean aphids and their exploitation by the ant Lasius flavus. Ecol Entomol 3:203–207Google Scholar
  10. Reyne A (1954) Hippeococcus, a new genus of Pseudococcids from Java with peculiar habits. Zool Meded Rijks Mus Nat Hist Leiden 32:233–257Google Scholar
  11. Roepke W (1930) Über einen merkwürdigen Fall von “Myrmecophilie” bei einer Ameise (Cladomyrma sp. ?) auf Sumatra beobachtet. Misc Zool Sumatrana 45:1–3Google Scholar
  12. Schneirla TC (1971) Army ants: a study in social organization. Freeman, San Francisco, CalifGoogle Scholar
  13. Takahashi R (1950) Some species of Coccidae from the Riouw Islands I. Insecta Matsummurana 17:65–72Google Scholar
  14. Takahashi R (1951) Three new myrmecophilous scale insects from the Malay Peninsula (Homoptera). Mushi 22:1–8Google Scholar
  15. Way MJ (1963) Studies on the association of the ant Oecophylla longinoda with the scale insect Saissetia zanzibariensis. Bull Entomol Res 45:113–134Google Scholar
  16. Way MJ (1963) Mutualism between ants and honeydew-producing homoptera. Annu Rev Entomol 8:307–344Google Scholar
  17. Williams DJ (1978) The anomalous ant-attended mealybugs (Homoptera: Pseudococcidae) of South-east Asia. Bull Br Mus Nat Hist (Entomol) 37:1–72Google Scholar
  18. Zwölfer H (1958) Zur Systematik, Biologie und Ökologie unterirdisch lebender Aphiden (Homoptera, Aphiodoidea) (Anoeciinae, Tetraneurini, Pemphigini und Fordini), Teil IV (Ökologische und systematische Erörterungen). Z Angew Entomol 42:129–172;43:1–52Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrich Maschwitz
    • 1
  • Heinz Hänel
    • 1
  1. 1.Fachbereich Biologie-Zoologie der J.W. Goethe-UniversitätFrankfurt am MainFederal Republic of Germany

Personalised recommendations