Encyclopedia of Social Insects

Living Edition
| Editors: Christopher K. Starr

Slave-Making in Ants (Dulosis)

  • Marah Stoldt
  • Susanne FoitzikEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_105-1

In the typical lifestyle in ants, as in other social insects, workers – daughters of the queen(s) – undertake all of the colony-maintaining tasks, such as brood care, nest maintenance, and foraging. In a striking departure from this, some species exploit workers of other species (hosts) to undertake all of these tasks, which are raided from neighboring host nests [5]. Such slave-making, or dulosis, was first described by Pierre Huber in the Amazon ant Polyergus rufescens in 1810. The slave-making habit represents a form of brood parasitism or social parasitism, in which it is not the host organism as such that is exploited, but its social activities. In contrast to avian brood parasites such as cuckoos, the altruistic behaviors of kidnapped individuals from multiple societies are redirected to serve the social parasite and their offspring. Slave-making ants need very dense host populations. So far slave-making species were only described in the Northern Hemisphere, although the reason...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.
    Alleman, A., Feldmeyer, B., & Foitzik, S. (2018). Comparative analyses of co-evolving host-parasite associations reveal unique gene expression patterns underlying slavemaker raiding and host defensive phenotypes. Scientific Reports, 8, 1951.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bourke, A. F. G., & Franks, N. R. (1995). Social evolution in ants. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Brandt, M., Foitzik, S., Fischer-Blass, B., & Heinze, J. (2005). The coevolutionary dynamics of obligate ant social parasite systems – Between prudence and antagonism. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society., 80, 251–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Buschinger, A. (1970). Neue Vorstellungen zur Evolution des Sozialparasitismus und der Dulosis bei Ameisen (Hym., Formicidae). Biologisches Zentralblatt., 88, 273–299.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Buschinger, A. (2009). Social parasitism among ants: A review (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News., 12, 219–235.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    D’Ettorre, P., & Heinze, J. (2001). Sociobiology of slave-making ants. Acta Ethologica., 3, 67–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Darwin, C. (1859). On the origins of species by means of natural selection. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Emery, C. (1909). Über den Ursprung der dulotischen, parasitischen und myrmekophilen Ameisen. Biologisches Zentralblatt., 29, 352–362.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Grüter, C., Jongepier, E., & Foitzik, S. (2018). Insect societies fight back: The evolution of defensive traits against social parasites. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 373, 20170200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Heinze, J., Buschinger, A., Poettinger, T., & Suefuji, M. (2015). Multiple convergent origins of workerlessness and inbreeding in the socially parasitic ant genus Myrmoxenus. PLoS One, 10, e0131023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Heinze, J., Ortius, D., Kaib, M., & Hölldobler, B. (1994). Interspecific aggression in colonies of the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus sublaevis. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology., 35, 75–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hölldobler, B., & Wilson, E. O. (1990). The ants. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ruano, F., Sanllorente, O., Lenoir, A., & Tinaut, A. (2013). Rossomyrmex, the slave-maker ants from the arid steppe environments. Psyche, 2013, 541804.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Sanllorente, O., Lorite, P., Ruano, F., Palomeque, T., & Tinaut, A. (2018). Phylogenetic relationships between the slave-making ants Rossomyrmex and their Proformica hosts in relation to other genera of the ant tribe Formicini (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evololutionary Research., 56, 48–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Terayama, M., & Onoyama, K. (1999). The ant genus Leptothorax MAYR (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Japan. Memoirs of the Myrmecological Society of Japan., 1, 71–97.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Trager, J. C. (2013). Global revision of the dulotic ant genus Polyergus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae, Formicinae, Formicini). Zootaxa, 3722, 501–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Wilson, E. O. (1975). Leptothorax duloticus and the beginnings of slavery in ants. Evolution, 29, 108–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Organismic and Molecular EvolutionJohannes Gutenberg UniversityMainzGermany