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Behavioural and chemical mechanisms behind a Mediterranean ant–ant association

Authors

  • FLORIAN MENZEL,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Division Community Ecology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
    2. Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
      Florian Menzel, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Division of Community Ecology, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 6, 3013 Bern, Switzerland. E-mail: fmenzel@iee.unibe.ch
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  • MARTIN WOYWOD,

    1. Department of Evolutionary Biology and Animal Ecology, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
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  • NICO BLÜTHGEN,

    1. Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
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  • THOMAS SCHMITT

    1. Department of Evolutionary Biology and Animal Ecology, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
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Florian Menzel, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Division of Community Ecology, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 6, 3013 Bern, Switzerland. E-mail: fmenzel@iee.unibe.ch

Abstract

1. Interspecific competition among ants is common, and so is competitive exclusion among dominant ant species. In contrast, specific associations between non-parasitic ant species are rare, especially in the temperate zones. As an exception, the subordinate ant Camponotus lateralis frequently co-occurs with the dominant Crematogaster scutellaris but rarely with other dominant ants.

2. This association is one of various associations between Camponotus and Crematogaster species across the world. However, the mechanisms behind these co-occurences are largely unknown.

3. In the present study, we therefore investigated the association of Ca. lateralis and Cr. scutellaris. We studied the spatial association of the nests, interspecific aggression, both species' cuticular hydrocarbon profiles, and their propensity to follow the other species' pheromone trails.

4. Crematogaster scutellaris usually attacked and displaced the generally submissive Ca. lateralis, but was significantly less aggressive at jointly used trails. Camponotus nests were always in close proximity to Crematogaster nests.

5. The cuticular hydrocarbons of both species consisted of alkanes with chain lengths between C21 and C35. The two species had 25 hydrocarbons in common, including mono-, di-, and tetramethyl alkanes. Despite this qualitative similarity, however, the quantitative hydrocarbon composition differed between the two species.

6. Camponotus lateralis followed artificial trails containing trail pheromones of Cr. scutellaris, but the latter did not follow Ca. lateralis trail pheromones. Interspecific trail-following by Camponotus, but not vice versa, has been observed in another Camponotus–Crematogaster association and may be a more general mechanism that facilitates associations between the two ant genera.

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