Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 401–410 | Cite as

The dacetine ant Strumigenys arizonica, an apparent obligate commensal of the fungus-growing ant Trachymyrmex arizonensis in southwestern North America

  • K. W. GrayEmail author
  • S. P. Cover
  • R. A. Johnson
  • C. RabelingEmail author
Research Article


Over 40 years ago, the dacetine ant Strumigenys arizonica was discovered in a nest of the fungus-growing ant Trachymyrmex arizonensis at Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains of the southwestern United States. This discovery suggested that the two species form compound nests, but this hypothesis has not been investigated. Here, we characterize this symbiosis through an analysis of collection records supplemented by recent field and laboratory observations. Our observations show that S. arizonica and T. arizonensis form compound nests that are a type of commensalistic symbiosis. Individuals of S. arizonica forage in galleries and tunnels of T. arizonensis nests but do not steal fungus or brood. Instead, individuals of S. arizonica hunt collembolans in the internal refuse piles of T. arizonensis nests. Interestingly, S. arizonica was never found independent of its host T. arizonensis over a significant portion of the geographic range of T. arizonensis. These results suggest a tight but asymmetric association where compound nesting is obligate for S. arizonica and facultative for T. arizonensis.


Attini Commensalism Formicidae Mutualism Social parasitism Symbiosis 



This project was supported by the US National Science Foundation (DEB-1456964, DEB-1654829). We thank Marek Borowiec, Jefferey Sosa-Calvo, and Romain Dahan for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript; Geoff Bender, Michele Lanan, and the Southwestern Research Station staff for providing support during field research; and Alex Wild for granting us permission to use his photograph of an encounter between Strumigenys arizonica and Trachymyrmex arizonensis (Fig. 1).

Supplementary material

40_2018_625_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (76 kb)
Supplementary material 1 Laboratory nest consisting of four 7.5 × 7.5 cm connected nest boxes 498 based on laboratory nest design described in Sosa-Calvo et al. (2015) (JPEG 76 KB)

Supplementary material 2 Strumigenys arizonica hunting collembolans in a laboratory nest (MP4 49566 KB)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Entomology, Museum of Comparative ZoologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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