Relative colony size of parabiotic species demonstrates inversion with growth


Ant-gardens are a mutualistic association involving epiphyte plants and one or several ant species. Ant-gardens inhabited by Camponotus femoratus (Fabricius, 1804) and Crematogaster levior (Longino, 2003), are the most commonly found in the Neotropical Region. These two ant species share the nest and their foraging trails but keep their brood separated (i.e., parabiosis). The larger Ca. femoratus defends the nest, while benefits from the foraging ability of C. levior. However, it is still not experimentally proven which of the two parabiotic species initiates nest building. Moreover, the growth dynamic of population for these two ant species is unknown. To address these topics, we analyzed the change in proportion of individuals from the two species depending on the nest volume. Our results show that (1) the proportion of Ca. femoratus workers increased with nest volume leading to a numerically domination of Ca. femoratus in the largest nests and (2) C. levior workers are likely to initiate the nest construction given that it represents the overwhelming majority of the small nests. These results reinforce the knowledge of the complex and understudied interaction between these two ant species. Ant-gardens arise as a mutualistic association between ants and epiphyte plants. Plants benefit from the dispersal of their seeds and defense by the patrolling ants, while provide nest structure to the ants. The ants Crematogaster levior and Camponotus femoratus live within common Ant-gardens. We studied the growth dynamic of the two species population with the volume of the Ant-garden nest. The proportion of Ca. femoratus increases with the nest volume resulting in a domination of the latter species on C. levior in the largest nets. Furthermore, our results, combined with field observations, suggest that C. levior can initiate the nest construction. These findings precise the complex relationship between the two ant species.

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Authors thank Ivone Vieira da Silva, Mendelson Guerreiro de Lima and Vinicius Morais for support and Willian Schornobay Bochenski, Gabriela Mendes, Jaidle Evangelista do Vale, Luiz Fernando Scatola, Igor Pereira do Nascimento, Andréia Anjo Pereira, Leandro Fagner da Silva and João Paulo Schmitt for your patience and incredible help. Furthermore, we thank Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso (UNEMAT), ONF-Brasil and Fazenda São Nicolau for the logistic support, in special to Estelle, Alan, Laide, Gilberto and Suzana. Finally, we are grateful to Serge Aron, Didier Degueldre, Thiago Izzo and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments.


This study was funded by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Mato Grosso (FAPEMAT—nº 0602346/2017) and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq—nº 313839/2019-0).

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PD, FD and REV designed the research, carried out the field collection, performed the research, analysed the data and wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to F. Degueldre.

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Table S1: Latitude, longitude, collection date, volume and number of queens, males and workers of the two ant species for each nest (DOCX 16 KB)

Supplementary file2 (DOCX 192 KB)

Supplementary file3 (DOCX 98 KB)

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Dacquin, P., Degueldre, F. & Vicente, R.E. Relative colony size of parabiotic species demonstrates inversion with growth. Insect. Soc. 68, 77–80 (2021).

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  • Formicidae
  • Mutualism
  • Parabiosis
  • Camponotus femoratus
  • Crematogaster levior
  • Amazonian