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Local host ant specificity of Phengaris (Maculinea)\ud teleius butterfly, an obligatory social parasite\ud of Myrmica ants

By Magdalena Witek, Piotr Nowicki, Ewa B. Sliwinska, Piotr Skorka, Josef Settele, Karsten Schonrogge and Michal Woyciechowski


1. Phengaris butterflies are obligatory social parasites of Myrmica ants.\ud Early research suggested that there is a different Myrmica host species for each of\ud the five European Phengaris social parasites, but more recent studies have shown that\ud this was an oversimplification.\ud 2. The pattern of host ant specificity within a Phengaris teleius metapopulation from\ud southern Poland is reported. A combination of studying the frequency distribution of\ud Phengaris occurrence and morphometrics on adult butterflies were used to test whether\ud use of different host species is reflected in larval development.\ud 3. Phengaris teleius larvae were found to survive in colonies of four Myrmica\ud species: M. scabrinodis, M. rubra, M. ruginodis, and M. rugulosa. Myrmica\ud scabrinodis was the most abundant species under the host plant but the percentage\ud of infested nests was similar to other host ant species at two sites and lower in\ud comparison to nests of M. rubra and M. ruginodis at the other two sites. Morphometric\ud measurements of adult butterflies reared by wild colonies of M. scabrinodis and\ud M. ruginodis showed that wing size and number of wing spots were slightly greater\ud for adults eclosing from nests of M. ruginodis.\ud 4. Our results suggest that P. teleius in the populations studied is less specialised\ud than previously suggested. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that P. teleius\ud is expected to be the least specific of the European Phengaris species, as it has the\ud largest and best defended fourth-instar caterpillars and, as a predatory species, it spends\ud less time in the central larval chambers of the host colonies. The fact that individuals\ud reared by M. ruginodis had wider hind wings may suggest that P. teleius had better\ud access to resources in M. ruginodis than in M. scabrinodis colonies

Topics: Zoology, Biology and Microbiology, Ecology and Environment
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1365-2311.2010.01213.x
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