Behaviour 2019
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Social parasite exposure and disease defenses in acorn ants
Steven T. Cassidy, Kiana Saadatmand, Chelsea Gerena, Yinlu Zhou, Alice Gau, Carl N. Keiser. University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States

Antagonistic interactions impose pressures on the victim of the interaction that can cause shifts in defensive phenotypes, including behavior and physiology. Social parasitic ants (Temnothorax americanus) are both social parasites and predators of their closely co-evolved relatives (Temnothorax curvispinosus) whose brood they either consume as prey or steal during raids to utilize as a work force in their own colonies. These predatory social parasites impose a significant threat to host colonies, so we explored how exposing T. curvispinosus colonies to a T. americanus worker could impact T. curvispinosus individual and collective traits relating to disease defenses. Specifically, we measured time to death for individuals when exposed to a fungal parasite and latency to remove corpses in T. curvispinosus colonies before and after exposure to a T. americanus worker. We found that simulating a scout raid resulted in modified individual worker immunity but not collective nest hygiene in host colonies. Our results indicate that simulating a potentially stressful antagonistic interaction impacts disease traits differently across levels of biological organization in acorn ant colonies.