Prey capture behavior in an arboreal african ponerine ant

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Abstract

I studied the predatory behavior of Platythyrea conradti, an arboreal ponerine ant, whereas most species in this subfamily are ground-dwelling. The workers, which hunt solitarily only around dusk, are able to capture a wide range of prey, including termites and agile, nocturnal insects as well as diurnal insects that are inactive at that moment of the Nyctemeron, resting on tree branches or under leaves. Prey are captured very rapidly, and the antennal palpation used by ground-dwelling ponerine species is reduced to a simple contact; stinging occurs immediately thereafter. The venom has an instant, violent effect as even large prey (up to 30 times the weight of a worker) never struggled after being stung. Only small prey are not stung. Workers retrieve their prey, even large items, singly. To capture termite workers and soldiers defending their nest entrances, ant workers crouch and fold their antennae backward. In their role as guards, the termites face the crouching ants and end up by rolling onto their backs, their legs batting the air. This is likely due to volatile secretions produced by the ants' mandibular gland. The same behavior is used against competing ants, including territorially-dominant arboreal species that retreat further and further away, so that the P. conradti finally drive them from large, sugary food sources. © 2011 Alain Dejean.

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Dejean, A. (2011). Prey capture behavior in an arboreal african ponerine ant. PLoS ONE, 6(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0019837

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