Population Ecology

, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 27–34 | Cite as

Myrmecophilous aphids produce cuticular hydrocarbons that resemble those of their tending ants

  • Shintaro EndoEmail author
  • Takao Itino
Original article


Aphid-tending ants protect aphids from natural enemies and collect honeydew secreted by the aphids. However, ants also often prey on the aphids they attend. Aphids, therefore, like social parasites of ants, may well have evolved chemical mimicry as an anti-predation strategy. In this study, we aimed to determine whether the aphid Stomaphis yanonis actively produces cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) that resemble those of the tending ant Lasius fuji. In the wild, ants put their CHCs on the aphids that they are tending, so in this study we analyzed “ant-free” aphids. Mature aphids that exuviated in the absence of ant attendance had almost all of the hydrocarbon components that the ants’ CHCs had. Moreover, hydrocarbons artificially applied to the aphids’ body surface were lost by exuviation. Taken together, these findings indicate that mature aphids actively produced ant-like CHCs, and they constitute the first documentation of a chemical resemblance between aphids and ants in a specific aphid–ant association.


Ant–aphid mutualism Chemical mimicry Lasius fuji 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 an earlier draft of this manuscript. This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C-22570015), a Grant-in-Aid for Exploratory Research (18657008) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and by Research and Education Funding for Japanese Alps Inter-Universities Cooperative Project, MEXT, Japan.

Supplementary material

10144_2012_355_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (65 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 65 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer Japan 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mountain and Environmental Science, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Science and TechnologyShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan
  3. 3.Institute of Mountain ScienceShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan

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