A Mutualism without Honeydew: What Benefits for \emphMelissotarsus\emph Emeryi Ants and Armored Scale Insects (Diaspididae)? - Sorbonne Université Access content directly
Journal Articles PEERJ Year : 2017

A Mutualism without Honeydew: What Benefits for \emphMelissotarsus\emph Emeryi Ants and Armored Scale Insects (Diaspididae)?

Abstract

Mutualisms between ants and sap-sucking insects generally involve clear benefits for both partners: the ants provide protection in exchange for honeydew. However, a single ant genus associates with armoured scale insects (Diaspididae) that do not excrete honeydew. We studied three colonies of Melissotarsus emeryi ants from two localities in Mozambique. Vast numbers of the diaspidid Morganella conspicua occupied galleries dug by the ants under the bark of living trees. Unlike free-living M. conspicua and other diaspidids, M. conspicua living with ants are known to lack shields, likely because they gain protection against enemies and desiccation. Nevertheless, we documented the occurrence of rare individuals with shields inside ant galleries, indicating that their glands continue to secrete wax and proteins as building material. This is likely to constitute a significant portion of the ants' diet, in addition to diaspidid exuviae and excretions from the Malpighian tubules. Indeed, Melissotarsus workers cannot walk outside the galleries due to modified middle legs, forcing them to obtain all nourishment within the tree. Melissotarsus founding queens, however, must locate a suitable host tree while flying, and acquire diaspidid crawlers. This mutualism involves ants that are highly specialised to chew through living wood, and diaspidids that can also live freely outside the bark. It is extremely widespread in Africa and Madagascar, recorded from 20 tree families, and harmful effects on plant hosts require rapid study.

Dates and versions

hal-03990277 , version 1 (15-02-2023)

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Christian Peeters, Imre Foldi, Danièle Matile-Ferrero, Brian L. Fisher. A Mutualism without Honeydew: What Benefits for \emphMelissotarsus\emph Emeryi Ants and Armored Scale Insects (Diaspididae)?. PEERJ, 2017, 5, pp.e3599. ⟨10.7717/peerj.3599⟩. ⟨hal-03990277⟩
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