The interspecific nesting relationship of Paraponera clavata and Partamona testacea
Leonardo Dapporto, Adele Bordoni , Giorgia Mocilnik , Manuel Bercigli , Carlos Daniel Vecco Giove , Leonardo Dapporto , Stefano Turillazzi , Marilena Marconi
Dipartimento di Biologia, Florence University, Italy; Dipartimento di Biologia, Florence University, Italy ; ; Dipartimento di Biologia, Florence University, Italy ; Urku Estudios Amazonicos, Peru ; Dipartimento di Biologia, Florence University, Italy ; Dipartimento di Biologia, Florence University, Italy ; Urku Estudios Amazonicos, Peru
Social insects are commonly involved in interspecific nesting associations. The association with aggressive species can provide relatively harmless species with an effective shield against predators, especially in the extremely diverse environment of tropical forest. Hosted species should rely on fine mechanisms to elude the host colony defense and, eventually, be involved in a reciprocal exchange of benefits. These intimate relationships represent profitable models in behavioral ecology mostly when the two parties are represented by eusocial species. This study conducted in the Urku center (San Martin, Peru) describes the first association of the giant tropical ant Paraponera clavata with a social bee (the stingless bee Partamona testacea). This stingless bee is reported to occasionally nest in association with termites and ants of the genus Atta. Paraponera clavata is a generalist predator of many invertebrates with a notorious ability in patrolling and nest defense. The acceptance by these ants of a stingless bee nesting in its own home raises many questions about the possible mechanisms triggering and maintaining these associations. To describe the interaction between P. clavata an P. testacea we integrated ethological and biochemistry data. Behavioral experiments showed that both ants and bees are less aggressive against the individuals belonging to the associated colony. However, guard bees at the nest entrance tend avoid all ants but, when they try to enter the hive, bees fatally react against the intruders regardless of the colony they belong to. To unveil potential proximate factors determining intercolonial recognition, the similarity of cuticular hydrocarbons profiles characterizing bee and related ant host colonies have been verified by gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry. This allowed to understand the relationships between colony and discern the proximate and ultimate causes determining the associations of these social insects.