Navigation Links
Smell-wars between butterflies and ants

Among humans, making yourself smell more alluring than you really are is a fairly harmless, socially accepted habit that maintains a complete perfume industry. However, it is a matter of life and death for caterpillars of large blue butterflies that dupe ant workers into believing them to be one of the ants own larvae. In a publication in the journal Science this week , researchers from the Centre for Social Evolution (CSE) at the University of Copenhagen show that caterpillar deception is also a matter of smell, and that there is an ongoing co-evolutionary arms race in smell similarity between cheaters and their victims.

Most people are familiar with animal confidence tricksters such as cuckoos, which grow up at the expense of 4-5 chicks of hapless songbirds. Less well known, but at least as spectacular, are the large blue butterflies of the genus Maculinea, whose larvae are adopted by ant colonies and deceive the ants into feeding them while letting their own brood starve. Jutland, and the island Ls in particular, are among the last European strongholds of one of these species, the Alcon blue, which has enabled researchers from the CSE to study these spectacular butterflies in great detail.

David Nash, Jacobus Boomsma and colleagues show that superb chemical mimicry manipulates the ants into neglecting their own brood to care almost exclusively for their caterpillar parasites, but also that the ant hosts can evolve resistance against this exploitation by changing how they smell. However, this only works when the host ants that live close to the initial foodplant of the caterpillars, the rare marsh gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe, do not interbreed with ants from neighbouring sites where the gentian does not occur. In the sites without the foodplant, ant colonies are never parasitized, so ants do not evolve resistance. Any resistance that has evolved in areas with butterflies is not effectively passed on to future generations because it is diluted by the flow of non-resistant genes from the uninfected areas.

In their study, the CSE researchers show that the two red ant species of the genus Myrmica that are host for the Alcon blue in Denmark differ dramatically in their degree of gene-flow among neighbouring sites, even though they live in the same gentian patches. Exactly as expected from evolutionary theory, they demonstrate that selection for resistance only works when the ant queens mate locally with males from colonies that have likewise suffered from butterfly parasitism.

With this study, the CSE researchers show that a study that was initially inspired by an interest in the suitable conservation of these large blue butterflies in Denmark can give important insights into the fundamentals of evolutionary biology. They achieved this result by an interdisciplinary collaboration with a British group of chemists, specializing on the study of chemical profiles on the surface of insects.


Contact: David Nash
University of Copenhagen

Related biology news :

1. Study shows link between alcohol consumption and hiv disease progression
2. St. Jude influenza survey uncovers key differences between bird flu and human flu
3. Hidden interactions between predators and prey: evolution causes cryptic dynamics in ecology
4. Groundbreaking Canada-US study proves link between emissions and mercury pollution in fish
5. Research explains link between cholesterol and heart disease
6. Groundbreaking Canada-US study proves link between emissions and mercury pollution in fish
7. Weight gain between first and second pregnancies associated with increased odds of male second child
8. Evidence of a relationship between swimming babies and infections
9. Of mice and men: similarities between skeletons of both
10. Analysis of breast and colon cancer genes finds many areas of differences between tumors
11. Fossilized cashew nuts reveal Europe was important route between Africa and South America
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... on the growing mobile commerce market and creator ... a leading marketplace to discover and buy innovative ... wallet on StackSocial for this holiday season.   ... "Company"), a biometric authentication company focused on the ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... 2015 Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), the ... has adopted the Synaptics ® ClearPad ® ... its newest flagship smartphones, the Nexus 5X by LG ... --> --> Synaptics works closely ... collaboration in the joint development of next generation technologies. ...
(Date:10/23/2015)... 23, 2015 Research and Markets ( ... Voice Recognition Biometrics Market 2015-2019" report to their ... The global voice recognition biometrics market to grow ... --> --> The report, ... based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/27/2015)... , November 27, 2015 ... Growing popularity of companion diagnostics is ... cancer biomarkers market with pharmaceutical companies and ... companion diagnostic tests. . ... Complete report on global cancer biomarkers ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 --> ... - 2020 report analyzes that automating biobanking workflow ... in long-term samples, minimizing manual errors, improving the ... manual errors such as mislabeling or inaccurate sample ... plays a vital role in blood fractionation, DNA ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , November 25, 2015 ... cat and human plaque and pave the way for more ... problems in cats     --> ... most commonly diagnosed health problems in cats, yet relatively little ... now. Two collaborative studies have been conducted by researchers from ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris ... that its business and prospects remain fundamentally strong ... Zoptrex™ (zoptarelin doxorubicin) recently received DSMB recommendation to ... completion following review of the final interim efficacy ... 2 Primary Endpoint in men with heavily pretreated ...
Breaking Biology Technology: