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Discrimination of Aphid Mutualists by an Ant Based on Chemical Cues

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A chemical basis for discrimination between attended and unattended aphid mutualists by the ant Lasius niger (L.) (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) was investigated. In an arena bioassay, hexane extracts of the aphid Rhopalosiphum padi (L.) (Homoptera, Aphididae), which had been attended by the ant colony provoked significantly longer examination by ants than extracts of unattended aphids. Extracts of the ants themselves were significantly more active than hexane. In an olfactometer, ants spent significantly longer in the arm containing the odour of live aphids that had been attended by the ants than in arms containing the odour of unattended aphids. When unattended aphids were introduced onto an aphid-infested plant under attendance by L. niger, they suffered higher levels of attack and removal by the ants than did previously attended aphids. Unattended aphids treated with the extract of attended aphids suffered higher levels of attack than attended aphids, but lower levels of removal than unattended aphids. The results show that L. niger can discriminate between aphids that the colony have attended and unattended aphids of the same species using chemical cues.
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Keywords: Lasius niger; Rhopalosiphum padi; mutualism; semiochemical

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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