Many aphid species are partners in mutualistic relationships with several ant taxa (Flatt and Weisser 2000). The degree of this mutualism can be either obligate or facultative depending on several ecological and physiological factors (Stadler and Dixon 2005). Aphids produce nourishing, sugar-rich honeydew which ants can procure by stroking the aphids’ anus or nectar organ with their antennae (Yao and Akimoto 2001). In return, ants offer the aphids protection from predators and parasitoids (Yao and Akimoto 2001). Ants also can perform hygienic services for the aphid colony by removing exuviae and excrement which decreases the risk of fungal growth (Detrain et al. 2010). Honeydew-collecting ants involved in these interactions include the subfamilies Formicinae and Dolichoderinae, as well as several species in the Myrmica and Tetramorium genera of the Myrmicinae subfamily (Stadler and Dixon 2005).
Aphids are phytophagous homopterans that evolved about 280 million years ago in the Carboniferous and now comprise nearly 4000 extant species (Stadler and Dixon 2005). Their diet consists ...
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...en mutualism and exploitation: the symbiotic interaction between Lasius ants and aphids. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 49:304-310.
Stadler, B. and A. Dixon. 2005. Ecology and evolution of aphid-ant interactions. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 36:345-372.
Stadler, B. and A. Dixon. 2008. Mutualism: Ants and Their Insect Partners. Cambridge University Press, New York.
Tegelaar, K., Hagman, M., Glinwood, R., Pettersson, J. and O. Leimar. 2012. Ant-aphid mutualism: the influence of ants on the aphid summer cycle. Oikos 121:61-66.
Yao, I. and S. Akimoto. 2001. Ant attendance changes the sugar composition of the honeydew of the drepanosiphid aphid Tuberculatus quercicola. Oecologia 128:36-43.
Zhang, S., Zhang, Y. and K. Ma. 2012. Disruption of ant-aphid mutualism in canopy enhances the abundance of beetles on the forest floor. PLoS ONE 7(4):1-5.
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