Review Article

Social parasitism among ants: a review (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Buschinger, A.


Abstract: The latest review of social parasitism in ants was published in 1990. Since then, comparatively few new parasitic species have been discovered, but research has progressed our knowledge of the evolution of social parasitism and the mechanisms involved in the maintenance of parasitic relations between species. Temporary social parasitism, slave-making, inquilinism and xenobiosis are confirmed as the primary manifestations of ant social parasitism. So-called intraspecific social parasitism should be clearly set off against the obligatory interspecific relations of social parasite and host species. A few evolutionary transitions from one of the interspecific forms to another do occur, mainly from slave-making to a derived, workerless state. Nevertheless there is no evidence for the evolution of all types of social parasitism towards inquilinism via multiple pathways as had been formerly suggested. Emery's rule sensu lato has been confirmed by molecular techniques. Host-parasite recognition is mediated by cuticular signatures and involves imprinting. Increasingly, social parasitic ants are considered interesting with respect to understanding conflict and cooperation among ants. Coevolution of social parasites with the respective host species and influence of social parasites on host populations are intensively studied. There are still unanswered questions with respect to the unequal distribution of social parasites among the extant ant subfamilies and genera, as well as their geographic distribution including the lack of slave-makers in the tropics.

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