First Evidence for Slave Rebellion: Enslaved Ant Workers Systematically Kill the Brood of Their Social Parasite Protomognathus americanus

  title={First Evidence for Slave Rebellion: Enslaved Ant Workers Systematically Kill the Brood of Their Social Parasite Protomognathus americanus},
  author={Alexandra Achenbach and Susanne Foitzik},
  booktitle={Evolution; international journal of organic evolution},
During the process of coevolution, social parasites have evolved sophisticated strategies to exploit the brood care behavior of their social hosts. Slave-making ant queens invade host colonies and kill or eject all adult host ants. Host workers, which eclose from the remaining brood, are tricked into caring for the parasite brood. Due to their high prevalence and frequent raids, following which stolen host broods are similarly enslaved, slave-making ants exert substantial selection upon their… 

Brood exchange experiments and chemical analyses shed light on slave rebellion in ants

Investigation of the acceptance of host and parasite pupae by Temnothorax workers in parasitized and unparasitized colonies found parasite pupae survived better when transferred to sympatric host colonies than to allopatric ones, possibly indicating local adaptation in the parasite P. americanus.

Geographic distribution of the anti-parasite trait “slave rebellion”

This study investigates the presence and expression the slave rebellion trait in four communities, reports its presence in all parasitized communities, document strong variation in its expression between different geographic sites and discusses potential explanations for this observed variation.

Do host species evolve a specific response to slave-making ants?

It is shown that workers of the host and of a non-host species in the parasitized site displayed more agonistic behaviors towards parasite than toward non-parasite intruders, and the importance of considering the whole set of potentially interacting species to understand the coevolution between social parasites and their hosts is stressed.

The influence of slavemaking lifestyle, caste and sex on chemical profiles in Temnothorax ants: insights into the evolution of cuticular hydrocarbons

How lifestyle-specific selection can result in convergent evolution of chemical phenotypes is revealed, with workers, for which nest-mate recognition is particularly important, carrying more and longer-chained hydrocarbons and males exhibiting a larger fraction of n-alkanes.

Oh sister, where art thou? Spatial population structure and the evolution of an altruistic defence trait

A simple mathematical model is used to examine whether the small‐scale population structure of the host species could explain the evolution of this potentially altruistic defence trait against slavemaking ants and finds that enslaved host workers are more closely related to host nests within the raiding range of their resident slavemaker nest, than tohost nests outside the raidingrange.

Increased host aggression as an induced defense against slave-making ants

It is demonstrated for the first time an induced defense against slave-making ants: Cues from the slavemaker Protomognathus americanus caused an unspecific but long-lasting behavioral response in Temnothorax host ants, showing the ability of host ants to remember parasite encounters.

Social parasites of ant colonies

This thesis will focus on socially parasitic ants and butterflies and the different ways and mimicries used to be accepted into the colony of their host, are observed.

Cross-fostering by foreign conspecific queens and slave-making workers influences individual- and colony-level personality

It is demonstrated that differences in individuals’ rearing environment can influence both individual- and colony-level personality in multi-level societies.

Cuckoos versus hosts in insects and birds: adaptations, counter‐adaptations and outcomes

An adaptive explanation of co‐evolution between brood parasites and their hosts is proposed, which centres on the relative strength of two opposing processes: strategy‐facilitation, in which one line of host defence promotes the evolution of another form of resistance, and strategy‐blocking, which may relax selection on another so completely that it causes it to decay.



Coevolution in host–parasite systems: behavioural strategies of slave–making ants and their hosts

It is found that the slave–makers and the hosts from New York were more effective at raiding and defending against raiders, respectively, than were conspecifics from the West Virginia population.


Abstract The parasite pressure exerted by the slavemaker ant Protomognathus americanus on its host species Leptothorax longispinosus was analyzed demographically and genetically. The origin of slaves

Escalation of a coevolutionary arms race through host rejection of brood parasitic young

It is shown that the breach of host egg defences by cuckoos creates a new stage in the coevolutionary cycle and is suggested that it has selected for the evolution of nestling mimicry in bronze-cuckoos.

Experiments on colony foundation in the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus canadensis M. R. Smith (Hymenoptera; Formicidae)

This study is the first to investigate colony foundation in the obligatory slave-making ant Harpagoxenus canadensis and indicates that parasite queens found colonies by usurpation.

Evolution of miniaturisation in inquiline parasitic ants: Timing of male elimination in Plagiolepis pygmaea, the host of Plagiolepis xene

Contrary to the assumption that size is indeed the primary cue used by workers to discriminate male from worker brood, it is found that males of P. pygmaea are culled between the small and medium larval stages, that is much before reaching the critical size of the largest worker larvae.

Impact of parasite sympatry on the geographic mosaic of coevolution.

This work reports the effect of two sympatric slave-makers on a single host and implies a tripartite coevolutionary arms race, whereby intraguild interactions among social parasites strongly affect the realized selection pressures on hosts and contribute to the geographic mosaic of coev evolution.

A chemical level in the coevolutionary arms race between an ant social parasite and its hosts

It is shown that in behavioural aggression trials, host colonies could indeed discriminate between invading slaves, which commonly accompany slavemakers on raids, and free‐living conspecifics, presumably to reduce the costs of defence.


in the service ofthe slave-makers. Colonies of the eastern species P. lucidus, and of the western species, P. breviceps, contains only one species of slave, unlike related faculative slave-makers of

Coevolution between slave‐making ants and their hosts: host specificity and geographical variation

Coevolution between slave‐making ants and their hosts shows host specificity and geographical variation, and the results suggest that in Vermont the slave‐maker has a sparing strategy when raiding L. longispinosus, but not when raids L. ambiguus.

Locally adapted social parasite affects density, social structure, and life history of its ant hosts.

A severe impact of the social parasite on the two host populations in West Virginia and New York is demonstrated, but also variation in host reactions between sites, as expected by the geographic mosaic theory of coevolution.