Arboreal Ants Use the “Velcro® Principle” to Capture Very Large Prey
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AutorDejean, Alain; Leroy, Céline; Corbara, Bruno; Roux, Olivier; Céréghino, Régis; Orivel, Jérôme; Boulay, Raphaël
Public Library of Science (PLOS)
AntsHunting behaviorLeavesLocustsNymphsPhylogenetic analysisPredationTrees
Dejean, A.; et al. Arboreal Ants Use the “Velcro® Principle” to Capture Very Large Prey. Plos One, 5(6): e11331 (2010). [http://hdl.handle.net/10481/31143]
PatrocinadorThis study was funded by the Programme Amazonie II of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (project 2ID) and the Programme Convergence 2007-2013, Région Guyane from the European Community (project DEGA).
Plant-ants live in a mutualistic association with host plants known as “myrmecophytes” that provide them with a nesting place and sometimes with extra-floral nectar (EFN) and/or food bodies (FBs); the ants can also attend sap-sucking Hemiptera for their honeydew. In return, plant-ants, like most other arboreal ants, protect their host plants from defoliators. To satisfy their nitrogen requirements, however, some have optimized their ability to capture prey in the restricted environment represented by the crowns of trees by using elaborate hunting techniques. In this study, we investigated the predatory behavior of the ant Azteca andreae which is associated with the myrmecophyte Cecropia obtusa. We noted that up to 8350 ant workers per tree hide side-by-side beneath the leaf margins of their host plant with their mandibles open, waiting for insects to alight. The latter are immediately seized by their extremities, and then spread-eagled; nestmates are recruited to help stretch, carve up and transport prey. This group ambush hunting technique is particularly effective when the underside of the leaves is downy, as is the case for C. obtusa. In this case, the hook-shaped claws of the A. andreae workers and the velvet-like structure of the underside of the leaves combine to act like natural Velcro® that is reinforced by the group ambush strategy of the workers, allowing them to capture prey of up to 13,350 times the mean weight of a single worker.