Chemical mimicry is an effective strategy when signal receivers recognize and discriminate models by relying on chemical cues. Some aphid enemies mimic the cuticular chemicals of aphids through various means thus avoiding detection and attack by aphid-tending ants. However, because ants have been reported to learn the chemical signatures of aphids in order to distinguish the aphids, the efficacy of chemical mimicry is predicted to depend on the experience of the ants that had tended aphids. The present study tested this hypothesis using two predator species: larvae of the green lacewing Mallada desjardinsi, and larvae of the ladybeetle Scymnus posticalis. Lacewing larvae carry the carcasses of aphids on which they have preyed upon their backs, and these function via chemical camouflage to reduce the aggressiveness of aphid-tending ants toward the larvae. Ladybeetle larvae reportedly produce a covering of wax structures, and their chemicals appear to attenuate ant aggression. We examined whether the behavior of the ant Tetramorium tsushimae toward these predators changed depending on their aphid-tending experience. Ants moderated their aggressiveness toward both predators when they had previously tended aphids, indicating that chemical mimicry by both aphid predators is dependent on previous experience of the ants in tending aphids. Chemical mimicry by the predators of ant-tended aphids is therefore considered to exploit learning-dependent aphid recognition systems of ants.
Chemical mimicry Ant-aphid mutualism Recognition system Chemical communication Green lacewing Scymnus beetle
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We thank T. Yokoyama of the University of Toronto for constructive comments. This work was supported by grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists to M. H. (24–4473).
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