Fat-Soluble Substance Flow During Symbiotic Fungus Cultivation by Leaf-Cutter Ants
Leaf-cutter ants perform a series of specialized behaviors in preparing plant substrates for their symbiotic fungus. This process may be related to contamination of workers by substances such as insecticides, leading us to hypothesize that substances are spread among workers through behaviors they perform to grow the fungus. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed the behavioral acts of workers during the processing of the pellets by using a fat-soluble tracing dye, since the active ingredient that composes toxic baits, used for control of leaf-cutter ants, is fat-soluble. The frequencies of performed behaviors were recorded and the number of dyed workers was assessed after fungus cultivation. The most frequent behavior is allogrooming and corresponds to 45.87% of the contamination process in workers, followed by holding, licking, and cutting pellets, which account for 40.22% of the process. After pellet processing, the workers had their external and internal morphological structures marked by the tracing dye—93.75% and 79.25%, respectively. These results confirm that behaviors performed during fungus cultivation contribute to dispersing substances such as insecticides, causing the contamination of workers.
KeywordsAtta sexdens behavior contamination fungus garden workers
Author Contribution Statement
Gabriela Christal Catalani, Roberto da Silva Camargo, and Luiz Carlos Forti planned, designed, and executed experimental work. Gabriela Christal Catalani, Roberto da Silva Camargo, and Luiz Carlos Forti conducted data analyses. Gabriela Christal Catalani, Roberto da Silva Camargo, Kátia Kaelly Andrade Sousa, Nadia Caldato, Aline Amorim Costa Silva, and Luiz Carlos Forti wrote the manuscript.
This research was funded by the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel [Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior] CAPES – Brazil, Finance Code 001. LC Forti was the recipient of a grant from Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnológico (CNPq) (Grant 301-938/2017-2).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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