, Volume 94, Issue 11, pp 871–894 | Cite as

A review of myrmecophily in ant nest beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Paussinae): linking early observations with recent findings

  • Stefanie F. GeiselhardtEmail author
  • Klaus Peschke
  • Peter Nagel


Myrmecophily provides various examples of how social structures can be overcome to exploit vast and well-protected resources. Ant nest beetles (Paussinae) are particularly well suited for ecological and evolutionary considerations in the context of association with ants because life habits within the subfamily range from free-living and predatory in basal taxa to obligatory myrmecophily in derived Paussini. Adult Paussini are accepted in the ant society, although parasitising the colony by preying on ant brood. Host species mainly belong to the ant families Myrmicinae and Formicinae, but at least several paussine genera are not host-specific. Morphological adaptations, such as special glands and associated tufts of hair (trichomes), characterise Paussini as typical myrmecophiles and lead to two different strategical types of body shape: while certain Paussini rely on the protective type with less exposed extremities, other genera access ant colonies using glandular secretions and trichomes (symphile type). We compare these adaptations with other taxonomic groups of insects by joining contemporary research and early sources and discuss the possibility of an attracting or appeasing effect of the secretion. Species that are ignored by their host ants might use chemical mimicry instead. Furthermore, vibrational signals may contribute to ant–beetle communication, and chemical signals have proven to play a role in host finding. The powerful defense chemistry of paussines as “bombardier beetles” is not used in contact with host ants. We attempt to trace the evolution of myrmecophily in paussines by reviewing important aspects of the association between paussine beetles and ants, i.e. morphological and potential chemical adaptations, life cycle, host specificity, alimentation, parasitism and sound production.


Evolution of myrmecophily Paussinae Mimicry Ant parasites Defensive secretion Host specificity 



We would like to thank M. E. Glyn Evans and Joachim Krüger, who kindly provided data from their laboratories. Moreover, we are grateful to Andrea di Giulio, Wendy Moore and Andreas Kaupp for fruitful discussion during the past years. Andrea di Giulio also provided the drawings of larval paussines, and Eva Weber drew the accurate pictures of adult paussines. Cesare Baroni Urbani has always been helpful with regard to any ant-related question. Furthermore, we would like to thank Sven Geiselhardt, Linda and Danel Draguljic and four anonymous reviewers for useful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefanie F. Geiselhardt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Klaus Peschke
    • 1
  • Peter Nagel
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut für Biologie IAlbert-Ludwigs-Universität FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Biogeographie, Departement UmweltwissenschaftenUniversität BaselBaselSwitzerland

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