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Psyche
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 725237, 11 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/725237
Review Article

Myrmica Ants and Their Butterfly Parasites with Special Focus on the Acoustic Communication

Department of Animal and Human Biology, University of Turin, via Accademia Albertina 13, 10123 Turin, Italy

Received 30 September 2011; Accepted 18 December 2011

Academic Editor: Jean Paul Lachaud

Copyright © 2012 F. Barbero et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

About 10,000 arthropod species live as ants' social parasites and have evolved a number of mechanisms allowing them to penetrate and survive inside the ant nests. Myrmica colonies, in particular, are exploited by numerous social parasites, and the presence of their overwintering brood, as well as of their polygyny, contributes to make them more vulnerable to infestation. Butterflies of the genus Maculinea are among the most investigated Myrmica inquilines. These lycaenids are known for their very complex biological cycles. Maculinea species are obligated parasites that depend on a particular food plant and on a specific Myrmica species for their survival. Maculinea larvae are adopted by Myrmica ants, which are induced to take them into their nests by chemical mimicry. Then the parasite spends the following 11–23 months inside the ants' nest. Mimicking the acoustic emission of the queen ants, Maculinea parasites not only manage to become integrated, but attain highest rank within the colony. Here we review the biology of Maculinea/Myrmica system with a special focus on some recent breakthrough concerning their acoustical patterns.