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. 2014 Apr;101(4):323-30.
doi: 10.1007/s00114-014-1159-1. Epub 2014 Feb 25.

Nesting Habits Shape Feeding Preferences and Predatory Behavior in an Ant Genus

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Nesting Habits Shape Feeding Preferences and Predatory Behavior in an Ant Genus

Alain Dejean et al. Naturwissenschaften. .

Abstract

We tested if nesting habits influence ant feeding preferences and predatory behavior in the monophyletic genus Pseudomyrmex (Pseudomyrmecinae) which comprises terrestrial and arboreal species, and, among the latter, plant-ants which are obligate inhabitants of myrmecophytes (i.e., plants sheltering so-called plant-ants in hollow structures). A cafeteria experiment revealed that the diet of ground-nesting Pseudomyrmex consists mostly of prey and that of arboreal species consists mostly of sugary substances, whereas the plant-ants discarded all the food we provided. Workers forage solitarily, detecting prey from a distance thanks to their hypertrophied eyes. Approach is followed by antennal contact, seizure, and the manipulation of the prey to sting it under its thorax (next to the ventral nerve cord). Arboreal species were not more efficient at capturing prey than were ground-nesting species. A large worker size favors prey capture. Workers from ground- and arboreal-nesting species show several uncommon behavioral traits, each known in different ant genera from different subfamilies: leaping abilities, the use of surface tension strengths to transport liquids, short-range recruitment followed by conflicts between nestmates, the consumption of the prey's hemolymph, and the retrieval of entire prey or pieces of prey after having cut it up. Yet, we never noted group ambushing. We also confirmed that Pseudomyrmex plant-ants live in a kind of food autarky as they feed only on rewards produced by their host myrmecophyte, or on honeydew produced by the hemipterans they attend and possibly on the fungi they cultivate.

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