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Keywords:

  • chemical mimicry;
  • cuticular hydrocarbons;
  • social parasites

Abstract

Caterpillars of the parasitic lycaenid butterfly are often adopted by host ants. It has been proposed that this adoption occurs because the caterpillars mimic the cuticular hydrocarbons of the host ant. This study aimed to examine whether caterpillars of the Japanese lycaenid butterfly Niphanda fusca induce adoption by mimicking their host ant Camponotus japonicus. Behavioral observations conducted in the laboratory showed that most second-instar caterpillars were not adopted, whereas most third-instar caterpillars were successfully adopted by host workers. A chemical comparison detected no characteristic differences in the cuticular hydrocarbon profiles between second- and third-instar caterpillars. However, morphological features of the caterpillars differed between the second and third instars; third-instar caterpillars developed exocrine glands (ant organs) such as tentacle organs and a dorsal nectary organ. These results suggest that multiple chemical signatures, not only cuticular hydrocarbons, may be important for invasion of the host ant nest.