Host propagation permits extreme local adaptation in a social parasite of ants

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Schonrogge, K., Gardner, M. G., Elmes, G. W., Napper, E. K. V., Simcox, D. J., Wardlaw, J. C., Breen, J., Barr, B., Knapp, J. J., Pickett, J. A. and Thomas, J. A. 2006. Host propagation permits extreme local adaptation in a social parasite of ants. Ecology Letters. 9 (9), pp. 1032-1040.

AuthorsSchonrogge, K., Gardner, M. G., Elmes, G. W., Napper, E. K. V., Simcox, D. J., Wardlaw, J. C., Breen, J., Barr, B., Knapp, J. J., Pickett, J. A. and Thomas, J. A.
Abstract

The Red Data Book hoverfly species Microdon mutabilis is an extreme specialist that parasitises ant societies. The flies are locally adapted to a single host, Formica lemani, more intimately than was thought possible in host-parasite systems. Microdon egg survival plummeted in F. lemani colonies > 3 km away from the natal nest, from c. 96% to 0% to < 50%, depending on the hoverfly population. This is reflected in the life-time dispersal of females, measured at < 2 m, resulting in oviposition back into the same ant nests for generation after generation. To counter destabilizing effects on the host, Microdon manipulates the social dynamics of F. lemani by feeding selectively on ant eggs and small larvae, which causes surviving larvae to switch development into queens. Infested colonies rear double the number of new queens, thus propagating the vulnerable local genotype and compensating for damage to the host colonies. The consequences of such extreme host specificity for insect conservation are discussed.

KeywordsEcology
Year of Publication2006
JournalEcology Letters
Journal citation9 (9), pp. 1032-1040
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2006.00957.x
PubMed ID16925652
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Funder project or code514
ISSN1461023X
PublisherWiley

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