The aphid-tending ant Lasius fuji exhibits reduced aggression toward aphids marked with ant cuticular hydrocarbons
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Some aphid species are attended by ants, which protect aphids against enemies, but ants sometimes prey on the aphids they are attending depending on the resource conditions. A previous study indicated that the ant Lasius niger preys less on the aphid individuals that experienced ant attendance than on those that did not. This observation leads to the hypothesis that ants transfer some substances to the aphids they attend and selectively prey on the aphids without the substances. In this study, we focus on cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), which are used by ants as nestmate recognition substances, and test whether ants discriminate the aphids on the basis of CHCs. We confirmed that the ant Lasius fuji preyed less on the aphids that were attended by their nestmates than those that were not attended. Glass dummies treated with CHCs from attended aphids were attacked less by ants than those treated with CHCs from non-attended aphids. The CHC profiles of ant attended aphids resembled those of the ants, suggesting that ants’ CHCs are transferred to the aphids’ body surface through ant attendance. These results support the hypothesis that ants “mark” their attended aphids with their CHCs and the CHCs reduce ant predation intensity.
KeywordsAnt–aphid mutualism Chemical discrimination Cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) Selective predation Stomaphis yanonis
We thank R. Yamaoka, T. Akino, N. Fujiwara-Tsujii, and M. K. Hojo for analytical advice and technical support, M. Maruyama for ant identification, and T. Akino, H. Kuzume and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the earlier draft of the manuscript. This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C-22570015) and a Grant-in-Aid for Exploratory Research (18657008) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
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