Behaviours indicating cannibalistic necrophagy in ants are modulated by the perception of pathogen infection level

Cannibalistic necrophagy is rarely observed in social hymenopterans, although a lack of food could easily favour such behaviour. One of the main supposed reasons for the rarity of necrophagy is that eating of nestmate corpses carries the risk of rapid spread of pathogens or parasites. Here we presen...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Authors: Maák István Elek
Tóth Eszter Judit
Lenda Magdalena
Lőrinczi Gábor
Kiss Anett
Juhász Orsolya
Czechowski Wojciech
Torma Attila
Format: Article
Published: 2020
Series:SCIENTIFIC REPORTS 10 No. 1
doi:10.1038/s41598-020-74870-8

mtmt:31729441
Online Access:http://publicatio.bibl.u-szeged.hu/20227
Description
Summary:Cannibalistic necrophagy is rarely observed in social hymenopterans, although a lack of food could easily favour such behaviour. One of the main supposed reasons for the rarity of necrophagy is that eating of nestmate corpses carries the risk of rapid spread of pathogens or parasites. Here we present an experimental laboratory study on behaviour indicating consumption of nestmate corpses in the ant Formica polyctena. We examined whether starvation and the fungal infection level of the corpses affects the occurrence of cannibalistic necrophagy. Our results showed that the ants distinguished between corpses of different types and with different levels of infection risk, adjusting their behaviour accordingly. The frequency of behaviours indicating cannibalistic necrophagy increased during starvation, although these behaviours seem to be fairly common in F. polyctena even in the presence of other food sources. The occurrence and significance of cannibalistic necrophagy deserve further research because, in addition to providing additional food, it may be part of the hygienic behaviour repertoire. The ability to detect infections and handle pathogens are important behavioural adaptations for social insects, crucial for the fitness of both individual workers and the entire colony.
Physical Description:Terjedelem: 13 p.-Azonosító: 17906
ISSN:2045-2322