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Insects 2012, 3(1), 120-130; doi:10.3390/insects3010120

Ant Larval Demand Reduces Aphid Colony Growth Rates in an Ant-Aphid Interaction

1
Division of Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK
2
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK
3
School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6AS, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 13 December 2011 / Revised: 6 January 2012 / Accepted: 11 January 2012 / Published: 2 February 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Symbiosis: A Source of Evolutionary Innovation in Insects)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [119 KB, uploaded 2 February 2012]   |  

Abstract

Ants often form mutualistic interactions with aphids, soliciting honeydew in return for protective services. Under certain circumstances, however, ants will prey upon aphids. In addition, in the presence of ants aphids may increase the quantity or quality of honeydew produced, which is costly. Through these mechanisms, ant attendance can reduce aphid colony growth rates. However, it is unknown whether demand from within the ant colony can affect the ant-aphid interaction. In a factorial experiment, we tested whether the presence of larvae in Lasius niger ant colonies affected the growth rate of Aphis fabae colonies. Other explanatory variables tested were the origin of ant colonies (two separate colonies were used) and previous diet (sugar only or sugar and protein). We found that the presence of larvae in the ant colony significantly reduced the growth rate of aphid colonies. Previous diet and colony origin did not affect aphid colony growth rates. Our results suggest that ant colonies balance the flow of two separate resources from aphid colonies- renewable sugars or a protein-rich meal, depending on demand from ant larvae within the nest. Aphid payoffs from the ant-aphid interaction may change on a seasonal basis, as the demand from larvae within the ant colony waxes and wanes. View Full-Text
Keywords: context dependency; conditionality; mutualism; ant predation; keystone interaction; Lasius niger; Aphis fabae context dependency; conditionality; mutualism; ant predation; keystone interaction; Lasius niger; Aphis fabae
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Oliver, T.H.; Leather, S.R.; Cook, J.M. Ant Larval Demand Reduces Aphid Colony Growth Rates in an Ant-Aphid Interaction. Insects 2012, 3, 120-130.

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