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Arboreal ants use the "Velcro® principle" to capture very large prey

Dejean, Alain and Leroy, Céline and Corbara, Bruno and Roux, Olivier and Céréghino, Régis and Orivel, Jérôme and Boulay, Raphaël Arboreal ants use the "Velcro® principle" to capture very large prey. (2010) PLoS ONE, 5 (6). 1-7. ISSN 1932-6203

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0011331

Abstract

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 VelcroH 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.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Thanks to Public Library of Science editor. The definitive version is available at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0011331
Audience (journal):International peer-reviewed journal
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Institution:Other partners > AgroParisTech (FRANCE)
French research institutions > Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique - CIRAD (FRANCE)
French research institutions > Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - CNRS (FRANCE)
Other partners > Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas - CSIC (SPAIN)
Université de Toulouse > Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse - INPT (FRANCE)
French research institutions > Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - INRA (FRANCE)
Université de Toulouse > Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier - UPS (FRANCE)
Other partners > Université Blaise Pascal - UBP (FRANCE)
Other partners > Université de la Méditerranée - Aix-Marseille II (FRANCE)
Other partners > Universidad de Granada - UGR (SPAIN)
Other partners > Université des Antilles et de la Guyane (FRANCE)
Laboratory name:
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Deposited By: Régis Cereghino
Deposited On:25 Nov 2013 14:27

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