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A Visual Guide for Studying Behavioral Defenses to Pathogen Attacks in Leaf-Cutting Ants

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

The complex lifestyle, evolutionary history of advanced cooperation, and disease defenses of leaf-cutting ants are well studied. Although numerous studies have described the behaviors connected with disease defense, and the associated use of chemicals and antimicrobials, no common visual reference has been made. The main aim of this study was to record short clips of behaviors involved in disease defense, both prophylactically and directly targeted towards an antagonist of the colony following infection. To do so we used an infection experiment, with sub-colonies of the leaf-cutting ant species Acromyrmex echinatior, and the most significant known pathogenic threat to the ants' fungal crop (Leucoagaricus gongylophorus), a specialized pathogenic fungus in the genus Escovopsis. We filmed and compared infected and uninfected colonies, at both early and more advanced stages of infection. We quantified key defensive behaviors across treatments and show that the behavioral response to pathogen attack likely varies between different castes of worker ants, and between early and late detection of a threat. Based on these recordings we have made a library of behavioral clips, accompanied by definitions of the main individual defensive behaviors. We anticipate that such a guide can provide a common frame of reference for other researchers working in this field, to recognize and study these behaviors, and also provide greater scope for comparing different studies to ultimately help better understand the role these behaviors play in disease defense.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftJournal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Udgave nummer140
Sider (fra-til)1-12
ISSN1940-087X
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2018

ID: 211854434