Quality and quantity: transitions in antimicrobial gland use for parasite defense

Tranter, Christopher, Fernández-Marín, Hermógenes and Hughes, William O H (2015) Quality and quantity: transitions in antimicrobial gland use for parasite defense. Ecology and Evolution, 5 (24). pp. 5857-5868. ISSN 2045-7758

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Parasites are a major force in evolution, and understanding how host life history affects parasite pressure and investment in disease resistance is a general problem in evolutionary biology. The threat of disease may be especially strong in social animals, and ants have evolved the unique metapleural gland (MG), which in many taxa produce antimicrobial compounds that have been argued to have been a key to their ecological success. However, the importance of the MG in the disease resistance of individual ants across ant taxa has not been examined directly. We investigate experimentally the importance of the MG for disease resistance in the fungus-growing ants, a group in which there is interspecific variation in MG size and which has distinct transitions in life history. We find that more derived taxa rely more on the MG for disease resistance than more basal taxa and that there are a series of evolutionary transitions in the quality, quantity, and usage of the MG secretions, which correlate with transitions in life history. These shifts show how even small clades can exhibit substantial transitions in disease resistance investment, demonstrating that host–parasite relationships can be very dynamic and that targeted experimental, as well as large-scale, comparative studies can be valuable for identifying evolutionary transitions.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: William Hughes
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2016 08:24
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2019 00:21
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/59999

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