Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 483–486 | Cite as

Agro-predation by Megalomyrmex ants on Mycetophylax fungus-growing ants

  • D. C. Cardoso
  • M. P. Cristiano
  • C. B. da Costa-Milanez
  • J. Heinze
Short Communication


Fungus-growing ants are a remarkable taxon of New World ants that engage in a mutualistic symbiosis with basidiomycete fungi. Their fungus-gardens are valuable resources and are exploited in countless ways by parasites and other beneficiaries outside of the ant-fungi mutualism. Here, for the first time, we report on the agro-predatory behavior of the ant Megalomyrmex incisus on Mycetophylax conformis and Mycetophylax morschi fungus-growers from sand dunes near Ilhéus, Brazil. Me. incisus workers raided colonies of My. conformis and My. morschi and aggressively antennated, pulled, bit, and stung the fungus-growers, which played dead or retreated on the fungus. Me. incisus quickly usurped the fungus-garden and expelled all Mycetophylax workers. The usurpation closely resembled that described for raids of Me. wettereri on Cyphomyrmex longiscapus, in that the fungus-growers remained passive and avoided confrontation. This passive behavior suggests that Me. incisus uses chemical weapons that facilitate the exploitation of the host colony resources.


Predation Behavior Fungus-garden Formicidae Attini Restinga 



We would like to acknowledge the financial support of Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais–FAPEMIG fellowship for Maykon Passos Cristiano (Process Number: PPM-00126-15) and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior–CAPES fellowship for Cinthia Borges Costa-Milanez. We thank Rodrigo M. Feitosa for identifying the Megalomyrmex species and Rodrigo S. de Jesus for Me. incisus images. The sample collection was authorized by ICMBio (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade) Permission Number 49332-1 and 49336-1 recorded in SISBio.

Supplementary material

40_2016_487_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (48.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (MP4 49680 kb) Supplementary material 1 Agro-predatory behavior of Me. incisus from Ilhéus, Bahia, Brazil, on Mycetophylax species. The movie shows workers attacking Mycetophylax workers when usurping the fungus-garden. Me. incisus workers violently antennate, bite, pull, and sting Mycetophylax workers and actively carry individuals that feign dead out of the nest


  1. Adams RC, Mueller UG, Schultz TR, Norden B (2000) Agropredation: usurpation of attine gardens by Megalomyrmex ants. Naturwissenschaften 87:549–554. doi: 10.1007/s001140050777 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams RMM, Shah K, Antonov LD, Mueller UG (2012) Fitness consequences of nest infiltration by the mutualist-exploiter Megalomyrmex adamsae. Ecol Entomol 37:453–462. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2311.2012.01384.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adams RMM, Liberti J, Illum AA, Jones TH, Nash DR, Boomsma JJ (2013) Chemically armed mercenary ants protect fungus-farming societies. Proc Natl Acad Sci 110:15752–15757. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1311654110 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Adams RMM, Jones TH, Longino JT, Weatherford RG, Mueller UG (2015) Alkaloid venom weaponry of three Megalomyrmex thief ants and the behavioral response of Cyphomyrmex costatus host ants. J Chem Ecol. doi: 10.1007/s10886-015-0565-y PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bolton B (2003) Synopsis and classification of Formicidae. Mem Am Ent Inst 71:1–370Google Scholar
  6. Boudinot BE, Sumnicht TP, Adams RMM (2013) Central American ants of the genus Megalomyrmex Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): six new species and keys to workers and males. Zootaxa 3732:1–82. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3732.1.1 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Brandão CRF (1990) Systematic revision of the Neotropical ant genus Megalomyrmex Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae), with the description of thirteen new species. Arquivos de Zoologia 31:411–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brandão CRF (2003) Further revisionary studies on the ant genus Megalomyrmex Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae: Solenopsidini). Pap Avulsos de Zool 43:145–159. doi: 10.1590/S0031-10492003000800001 Google Scholar
  9. Bruner G, Wcislo WT, Fernández-Marín H (2014) Prudent inquilines and proactive hosts: behavioral dynamics between an ant social parasite, Megalomyrmex symmetochus and its fungus-growing ant host, Sericomyrmex amabilis. Insectes Soc 61:83–88. doi: 10.1007/s00040-013-0331-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cardoso DC, Cristiano MP, Tavares MG (2011) Methodological remarks on rearing basal Attini ants in the laboratory for biological and evolutionary studies: overview of the genus Mycetophylax. Insectes Soc 58:427–430. doi: 10.1007/s00040-011-0160-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cardoso DC, Cristiano MP, Tavares MG, Schoereder JH (2012) Co-occurrence of putatively allopatric species of the genus Mycetophylax: first record of Mycetophylax simplex (EMERY, 1888) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Myrmecol News 16:57–59Google Scholar
  12. Cardoso DC, Cristiano MP, Heinze J, Tavares MG (2014a) A nuclear DNA based phylogeny of endemic sand dune ants of the genus Mycetophylax (Emery, 1913): how morphology is reflected in molecular data. Mol Phylogenet Evol 70:378–382. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2013.10.012 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Cardoso DC, Pompolo SG, Cristiano MP, Tavares MG (2014b) The role of fusion in ant chromosome evolution: insights from cytogenetic analysis using a molecular phylogenetic approach in the genus Mycetophylax. PLoS One 9(1):e87473. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087473 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Cardoso DC, Cristiano MP, Tavares MG, Schubart CD, Heinze J (2015) Phylogeography of the sand dune ant Mycetophylax simplex along the Brazilian Atlantic Forest coast: remarkably low mtDNA diversity and shallow population structure. BMC Evol Biol 15:106. doi: 10.1186/s12862-015-0383-4 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Dijkstra MB, Boomsma JJ (2003) Gnamptogenys hartmani Wheeler (Ponerinae: Ectatommini): an agro-predator of Trachymyrmex and Sericomyrmex fungus-growing ants. Naturwissenschaften 90:568–571. doi: 10.1007/s00114-003-0478-4 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Klingenberg C, Brandão CRF (2009) Revision of the fungus-growing ant genera Mycetophylax Emery and Paramycetophylax Kusnezov rev. stat., and description of Kalathomyrmex n. gen. (Formicidae: Myrmicinae: Attini). Zootaxa 2052:1–31Google Scholar
  17. Klingenberg C, Brandão CRF, Engels W (2007) Primitive nest architecture and small monogynous colonies in basal Attini inhabiting sandy beaches of Southern Brazil. Stud Neotrop Fauna E 42:121–126. doi: 10.1080/01650520601065509 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Longino JT (2010) A taxonomic review of the ant genus Megalomyrmex Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Central America. Zootaxa 2720:35–58. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3732.1.1 Google Scholar
  19. Mangone DM, Currie CR (2007) Garden substrate preparation behaviours in fungus-growing ants. Can Entomol 139:841–849. doi: 10.4039/n06-105 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. C. Cardoso
    • 1
  • M. P. Cristiano
    • 2
  • C. B. da Costa-Milanez
    • 2
  • J. Heinze
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de GenéticaUniversidade Federal do ParanáCuritibaBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Biodiversidade, Evolução e Meio AmbienteUniversidade Federal de Ouro PretoOuro PretoBrazil
  3. 3.Zoology/Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany

Personalised recommendations