However, it is a matter of life and death for caterpillars of large blue butterflies that dupe ant workers into believing them to be one of the ant’s own larvae. In a publication in the journal Science this week , researchers from the Centre for Social Evolution (CSE) at the University of Copenhagen show that caterpillar deception is also a matter of smell, and that there is an ongoing co-evolutionary arms race in smell similarity between cheaters and their victims.
Most people are familiar with animal confidence tricksters such as cuckoos, which grow up at the expense of 4-5 chicks of hapless songbirds. Less well known, but at least as spectacular, are the large blue butterflies of the genus Maculinea, whose larvae are adopted by ant colonies and deceive the ants into feeding them while letting their own brood starve. Jutland, and the island Læsø in particular, are among the last European strongholds of one of these species, the Alcon blue, which has enabled researchers from the CSE to study these spectacular butterflies in great detail.
David Nash, Jacobus Boomsma and colleagues show that superb chemical mimicry manipulates the ants into neglecting their own brood to care almost exclusively for their caterpillar parasites, but also that the ant hosts can evolve resistance against this exploitation by changing how they smell. However, this only works when the host ants that live close to the initial foodplant of the caterpillars, the rare marsh gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe, do not interbreed with ants from neighbouring sites where the gentian does not occur. In the sites without the foodplant, ant colonies are never parasitized, so ants do not evolve resistance. Any resistance that has evolved in areas with butterflies is not effectively passed on to future generations because it is diluted by the flow of non-resistant genes from the uninfected areas.
In their study, the CSE researchers show that the two red ant species of the genus Myrmica that are host for the Alcon blue in Denmark differ dramatically in their degree of gene-flow among neighbouring sites, even though they live in the same gentian patches. Exactly as expected from evolutionary theory, they demonstrate that selection for resistance only works when the ant queens mate locally with males from colonies that have likewise suffered from butterfly parasitism.
With this study, the CSE researchers show that a study that was initially inspired by an interest in the suitable conservation of these large blue butterflies in Denmark can give important insights into the fundamentals of evolutionary biology. They achieved this result by an interdisciplinary collaboration with a British group of chemists, specializing on the study of chemical profiles on the surface of insects.
David Nash | EurekAlert!
Bacteria as pacemaker for the intestine
22.11.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Researchers identify how bacterium survives in oxygen-poor environments
22.11.2017 | Columbia University
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
22.11.2017 | Business and Finance
22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy