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Journal Article

Aphid alarm pheromone as a cue for ants to locate aphid partners


Bartram,  Stefan
Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Prof. Dr. W. Boland, MPI for Chemical Ecology, Max Planck Society;

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Verheggen, F. J., Diez, L., Sablon, L., Fischer, C., Bartram, S., Haubruge, E., et al. (2012). Aphid alarm pheromone as a cue for ants to locate aphid partners. PLoS One, 7(8): e41841. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041841.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-A83C-D
The mutualistic relationships that occur between myrmecophilous aphids and ants are based on the rich food supply that honeydew represents for ants and on the protection they provide against aphid natural enemies. While aphid predators and parasitoids actively forage for oviposition sites by using aphid semiochemicals, scouts of aphid-tending ant species would also benefit from locating honeydew resources by orienting toward aphid pheromone sources. The present study aims to provide additional information on the use of Aphis fabae alarm pheromone, i.e. (E)-β-farnesene (EβF), by ant scouts. The perception and behavioral impact of EβF on Lasius niger were investigated using electroantennography and two bio-assays measuring their attraction and orientation towards aphid semiochemicals. Pronounced electrical depolarizations were observed from L. niger scout antennae to stimulations of A. fabae alarm pheromone, while other sesquiterpenes elicited weak or no responses. L. niger scouts were significantly attracted toward EβF in a four-arm olfactometer, as well as in an two-choice bioassay. These laboratory results suggest for the first time that low amounts of aphid alarm pheromone can be used by L. niger scouts as a cue indicating the presence of aphid colonies and could therefore mediate the aphid-ant partnership in the field.