Long-term disease dynamics for a specialized parasite of ant societies: A field study

Raquel G. Loreto, Simon L. Elliot, Mayara L.R. Freitas, Thairine M. Pereira, David P. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many studies have investigated how social insects behave when a parasite is introduced into their colonies. These studies have been conducted in the laboratory, and we still have a limited understanding of the dynamics of ant-parasite interactions under natural conditions. Here we consider a specialized parasite of ant societies (Ophiocordyceps camponoti-rufipedis infecting Camponotus rufipes) within a rainforest. We first established that the parasite is unable to develop to transmission stage when introduced within the host nest. Secondly, we surveyed all colonies in the studied area and recorded 100% prevalence at the colony level (all colonies were infected). Finally, we conducted a long-term detailed census of parasite pressure, by mapping the position of infected dead ants and foraging trails (future hosts) in the immediate vicinity of the colonies over 20 months. We report new dead infected ants for all the months we conducted the census - at an average of 14.5 cadavers/month/colony. Based on the low infection rate, the absence of colony collapse or complete recovery of the colonies, we suggest that this parasite represents a chronic infection in the ant societies. We also proposed a "terminal host model of transmission" that links the age-related polyethism to the persistence of a parasitic infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere103516
JournalPloS one
Volume9
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 18 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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