Ant semiochemicals limit apterous aphid dispersal
Some organisms can manipulate the nervous systems of others or alter their physiology in order to obtain benefit. Ants are known to limit alate aphid dispersal by physically removing wings and also through chemical manipulation of the alate developmental pathway. This results in reduced dispersal and higher local densities of aphids, which benefit ants in terms of increased honeydew and prey availability. Here, we show that the walking movement of mutualistic apterous aphids is also reduced by ant semiochemicals. Aphids walk slower and their dispersal from an unsuitable patch is hampered by ants. If aphid walking dispersal has evolved as a means of natural enemy escape, then ant chemicals may act as a signal indicating protection; hence, reduced dispersal could be adaptive for aphids. If, however, dispersal is primarily a means to reduce competition or to maintain persistent metapopulations, then manipulation by ants could be detrimental. Such manipulation strategies, common in host-parasite and predator-prey interactions, may be more common in mutualism than expected.
Published inProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences