Chemical profiles in Iberoformica subrufa and Formica frontalis, a new example of temporary host–parasite interaction

  • F. RuanoEmail author
  • A. Lenoir
  • M. Silvestre
  • A. Khalil
  • A. Tinaut
Research Article


The aim of this paper is to describe the relationship between two ant species, Formica frontalis and Iberoformica subrufa, found together in shared nests. Therefore, we obtained data from dug nests and outdoor activity in two sympatric populations and investigated the cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) in both sympatric populations and in 10 I. subrufa allopatric populations to unravel whether the relationship becomes tuned between both species. We also determined the CHCs of two sympatric Serviformica species (F. cunicularia and F. lemani). Our results showed that the ant F. frontalis is a temporary parasite of I. subrufa which facultatively forms mixed colonies complying with a loose form of the Emery’s rule. Alkanes and methylalkanes are the most abundant compounds found in F. frontalis and I. subrufa CHCs, respectively, but esters were only abundant in I. subrufa. As far as the CHC similarity is concerned, the sympatric free-living hosts were chemically closer to the parasite, albeit not identical, whereas the allopatric I. subrufa populations always maintained a separate CHC composition. We provide different potential hypotheses to explain this similarity of cuticular profiles only in the two geographically distant sympatric populations.


Emery’s rule Esters Environmental hypothesis Different species hypothesis Host-tolerance hypothesis F. lemani F. cunicularia 



We are grateful to Abraham Hefetz for his collaboration with identifying the esters, editing the manuscript, and discussing the resistance-tolerance hypothesis, which has significantly improved the manuscript. Raphaël Boulay and David Tinaut collected samples of Iberoformica subrufa at different sites in Spain. We are also grateful to the authorities of the Environmental Agency of the Andalusian Government and especially the National Parks of Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Baza and Doñana, who gave permission and facilities to collect samples. Fran Oi and Hugo Álvarez helped us to manage some graphs and tables and Angela Tate edited the English language as a professional scientific editor. This work was supported by the PRES Centre Val de Loire Université (APR-IA 2012).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de ZoologiaUniversidad de GranadaGranadaSpain
  2. 2.IRBI, Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l’Insecte, UMR CNRS, Faculté des Sciences, Parc de Grandmont, Université de ToursToursFrance
  3. 3.Departamento de EcologíaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

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