Nesting biology of the arboreal fungus-growing ant Cyphomyrmex cornutus and behavioral interactions with the social-parasitic ant Megalomyrmex mondabora
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We describe the extraordinary nesting habits of the fungus-growing ant Cyphomyrmex cornutus (Formicidae, Myrmicinae, Attini) and the natural history of Megalomyrmex mondabora (Formicidae, Myrmicinae, Solenopsidini), a social parasite that inhabits nests of C. cornutus and other small attine ants. The study was carried out at two sites on the Atlantic slope of Costa Rica. The C. cornutus nest is an oblong mass of accreted soil, attached to or suspended from low vegetation in wet forest understory. Less than a fourth of the nest volume has chambers and is inhabited by C. cornutus; the remainder is a semi-solid mass of accreted soil often housing a variety of arthropods, including other unspecialized commensal ant species. Five C. cornutus colonies examined were parasitized by M. mondabora. Colonies of M. mondabora inhabited chambers very near those of the host. In laboratory observations, M. mondabora and C. cornutus workers interacted with little aggression despite the consumption of C. cornutus larvae and fungi by M. mondabora. During most interactions, C. cornutus workers responded submissively, whereas M. mondabora appeared indifferent or nonresponsive. Megalomyrmex mondabora parasitizes several other attine species (Cyphomyrmex costatus, Cyphomyrmex salvini, and Apterostigma goniodes), and it appears therefore a relatively unspecialized social parasite with broad attine hostassociation. The size of M. mondabora workers vary with host species, suggesting M. mondabora sensu lato comprises either cryptic species or the host environment affects worker size.
Keywords:Cyphomyrmex cornutus Megalomyrmex mondabora social parasitism nesting biology
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