Queens of the inquiline social parasite Acromyrmex insinuator can join nest-founding queens of its host, the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior

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Queens of the inquiline social parasite Acromyrmex insinuator are known to infiltrate mature colonies of Acromyrmex echinatior and to exploit the host's perennial workforce by producing predominantly reproductive individuals while suppressing host reproduction. Here we report three cases of an A. insinuator queen having joined an incipient colony of A. echinatior that contained only the founding host-queen and her small symbiotic fungus garden. We conjectured that 1:1 host-inquiline co-founding-a phenomenon that has only rarely been reported in ants-may imply that the presence of an A. insinuator queen may incur benefits to the host by increasing survival of its incipient colonies. We observed that the parasite queens neither foraged nor defended the nest against intruders. However, the parasite queens interacted with the host and fungus in a way that could be consistent with grooming and/or with contributing eggs. These observations may help explain why A. insinuator queens have maintained metapleural glands, even though they are smaller than those of host queens, and why A. insinuator has lost the large foraging worker caste but not the small worker caste.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInsectes Sociaux
Issue number2-3
Pages (from-to)255-260
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Parasitism, Mutualism, Inquiline, HYMENOPTERA, FORMICIDAE, EVOLUTION

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