Delayed rejection in a leaf-cutting ant after foraging on plants unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus

Hubert Herz, Berthold Hoelldobler, Flavio Roces

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Leaf-cutting ants culture a mutualistic fungus for which they collect and process a great diversity of fresh plant material as substrate. It has previously been observed that workers show "delayed rejection" behavior toward substrate that is harmful for the fungus but not for the ants: workers initially accept such materials but thereafter avoid its collection. In this study, we investigated delayed rejection behavior toward natural leaves in several 2-choice experiments in laboratory subcolonies of Acromyrmex lundi. We experimentally manipulated leaf suitability for the fungus by infiltrating them with a fungicide (cycloheximide) not detectable to the ants. The ants' delayed rejection behavior was specific toward the respective fungicide-treated plant species. Delayed rejection was also observed in naive ants after contact with the fungus garden containing treated leaves, confirming previous results with artificial bait. The onset of delayed rejection occurred 10 h after incorporation of treated leaves into the fungus garden. Rejection behavior was maintained for at least 9 weeks when incorporation of the previously unsuitable plant species was precluded. However, acceptance resumed after 3 weeks when ants were "forced" to feed on untreated leaves of the previously treated plant species. The observed species-specific, rapidly expressed, and flexible rejection of unsuitable substrate may be a mechanism to successfully avoid the provisioning of the fungus garden with plants containing harmful compounds as they occur in the highly diverse natural habitat of the colonies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-582
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

Fingerprint

leaf-cutting ants
Ants
ant
Fungi
fungus
foraging
Formicidae
fungi
garden
leaves
fungicide
fungicides
substrate
Acromyrmex
cycloheximide
baits
bait
Cycloheximide
cutting (process)
Rejection (Psychology)

Keywords

  • Acromyrmex lundi
  • Avoidance learning
  • Behavior
  • Foraging decisions
  • Host plant selection
  • Symbiosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this

Delayed rejection in a leaf-cutting ant after foraging on plants unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus. / Herz, Hubert; Hoelldobler, Berthold; Roces, Flavio.

In: Behavioral Ecology, Vol. 19, No. 3, 2008, p. 575-582.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{205d17659d964eb6891e62b1fe108a84,
title = "Delayed rejection in a leaf-cutting ant after foraging on plants unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus",
abstract = "Leaf-cutting ants culture a mutualistic fungus for which they collect and process a great diversity of fresh plant material as substrate. It has previously been observed that workers show {"}delayed rejection{"} behavior toward substrate that is harmful for the fungus but not for the ants: workers initially accept such materials but thereafter avoid its collection. In this study, we investigated delayed rejection behavior toward natural leaves in several 2-choice experiments in laboratory subcolonies of Acromyrmex lundi. We experimentally manipulated leaf suitability for the fungus by infiltrating them with a fungicide (cycloheximide) not detectable to the ants. The ants' delayed rejection behavior was specific toward the respective fungicide-treated plant species. Delayed rejection was also observed in naive ants after contact with the fungus garden containing treated leaves, confirming previous results with artificial bait. The onset of delayed rejection occurred 10 h after incorporation of treated leaves into the fungus garden. Rejection behavior was maintained for at least 9 weeks when incorporation of the previously unsuitable plant species was precluded. However, acceptance resumed after 3 weeks when ants were {"}forced{"} to feed on untreated leaves of the previously treated plant species. The observed species-specific, rapidly expressed, and flexible rejection of unsuitable substrate may be a mechanism to successfully avoid the provisioning of the fungus garden with plants containing harmful compounds as they occur in the highly diverse natural habitat of the colonies.",
keywords = "Acromyrmex lundi, Avoidance learning, Behavior, Foraging decisions, Host plant selection, Symbiosis",
author = "Hubert Herz and Berthold Hoelldobler and Flavio Roces",
year = "2008",
doi = "10.1093/beheco/arn016",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "19",
pages = "575--582",
journal = "Behavioral Ecology",
issn = "1045-2249",
publisher = "Oxford University Press",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Delayed rejection in a leaf-cutting ant after foraging on plants unsuitable for the symbiotic fungus

AU - Herz, Hubert

AU - Hoelldobler, Berthold

AU - Roces, Flavio

PY - 2008

Y1 - 2008

N2 - Leaf-cutting ants culture a mutualistic fungus for which they collect and process a great diversity of fresh plant material as substrate. It has previously been observed that workers show "delayed rejection" behavior toward substrate that is harmful for the fungus but not for the ants: workers initially accept such materials but thereafter avoid its collection. In this study, we investigated delayed rejection behavior toward natural leaves in several 2-choice experiments in laboratory subcolonies of Acromyrmex lundi. We experimentally manipulated leaf suitability for the fungus by infiltrating them with a fungicide (cycloheximide) not detectable to the ants. The ants' delayed rejection behavior was specific toward the respective fungicide-treated plant species. Delayed rejection was also observed in naive ants after contact with the fungus garden containing treated leaves, confirming previous results with artificial bait. The onset of delayed rejection occurred 10 h after incorporation of treated leaves into the fungus garden. Rejection behavior was maintained for at least 9 weeks when incorporation of the previously unsuitable plant species was precluded. However, acceptance resumed after 3 weeks when ants were "forced" to feed on untreated leaves of the previously treated plant species. The observed species-specific, rapidly expressed, and flexible rejection of unsuitable substrate may be a mechanism to successfully avoid the provisioning of the fungus garden with plants containing harmful compounds as they occur in the highly diverse natural habitat of the colonies.

AB - Leaf-cutting ants culture a mutualistic fungus for which they collect and process a great diversity of fresh plant material as substrate. It has previously been observed that workers show "delayed rejection" behavior toward substrate that is harmful for the fungus but not for the ants: workers initially accept such materials but thereafter avoid its collection. In this study, we investigated delayed rejection behavior toward natural leaves in several 2-choice experiments in laboratory subcolonies of Acromyrmex lundi. We experimentally manipulated leaf suitability for the fungus by infiltrating them with a fungicide (cycloheximide) not detectable to the ants. The ants' delayed rejection behavior was specific toward the respective fungicide-treated plant species. Delayed rejection was also observed in naive ants after contact with the fungus garden containing treated leaves, confirming previous results with artificial bait. The onset of delayed rejection occurred 10 h after incorporation of treated leaves into the fungus garden. Rejection behavior was maintained for at least 9 weeks when incorporation of the previously unsuitable plant species was precluded. However, acceptance resumed after 3 weeks when ants were "forced" to feed on untreated leaves of the previously treated plant species. The observed species-specific, rapidly expressed, and flexible rejection of unsuitable substrate may be a mechanism to successfully avoid the provisioning of the fungus garden with plants containing harmful compounds as they occur in the highly diverse natural habitat of the colonies.

KW - Acromyrmex lundi

KW - Avoidance learning

KW - Behavior

KW - Foraging decisions

KW - Host plant selection

KW - Symbiosis

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=45349109311&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=45349109311&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1093/beheco/arn016

DO - 10.1093/beheco/arn016

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:45349109311

VL - 19

SP - 575

EP - 582

JO - Behavioral Ecology

JF - Behavioral Ecology

SN - 1045-2249

IS - 3

ER -