This is a social parasite of Camponotus aethiops and Camponotus pilicornis (Karaman, 2012); thus, its distribution should follow that of its hosts. At present, it is known from scattered localities of southern Europe, especially from Spain, France and Italy. This is the first record from Sardinia (Rigato & Toni, 2011).
|At a Glance||• Inquiline|
Forel (1890) described C. universitatis worker from France, but its queen and male were first described from the Iberian Peninsula by Tinaut et al. (1992). Host species for C. universitatis are C. aethiops Latreille, 1798 and C. pilicornis Roger, 1859 (Espadaler, 1981; Tinaut et al., 1992). C. universitatis is a rare ant species and has only been recorded in a few studies from Southern Europe: France (Forel, 1890; Espadaler, 1981); Switzerland (Forel, 1904; Kutter, 1936); Italy (Wurmli, 1969); Albania (Andoni, 1977) and Spain (Tinaut et al., 1992). According to Radchenko (2007), C. universitatis is distributed only in Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland but he ignored a record from Albania of Andoni (1977). More recently, Lapeva-Gjonova and Kıran (2012) recorded this species from Southeast Bulgaria in the Strandzha (Istranca) Mountain region. Despite this recent record from Bulgaria and the fact that 35 other parasitic ant species (17 temporary and 18 permanent social parasitic ants) are known from Turkey (Kıran and Aktac¸, 2007), C. universitatis has not yet been recorded from Turkey. (Karaman, 2012.)
Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Distribution based on AntMaps
Distribution based on AntWeb specimens
Check data from AntWeb
This species is an inquiline in the nests of Camponotus aethiops and Camponotus pilicornis, a permanent parasite without slavery (Tinaut et al., 1992; Guillem et al., 2014). Currently Camponotus universitatis and Camponotus ruseni (Karaman, 2012) are the only known Camponotus social parasites, despite this genus containing approx. 1,500 species.
Guillem et al., 2014 - Camponotus universitatis were collected from the Catalan Pyrenees in June 2011 when four colonies were found with their respective hosts Camponotus aethiops. Parasitized colonies consisted of C. universitatis workers and female alates (young winged queens). All colonies of Camponotus were found in a small (10 m × 10 m) area on a dry slope that was stony and open with a sparse Mediterranean flora.
Guillem et al. (2014) examined cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles between this parasite and its hosts. They found that the parasitic species had CHC profiles that were indistinguishable from that of their hosts, even when the parasite is using more than one host species. The level of chemical mimicry even extended to the more subtle between-colony differences in profiles. In all cases the profiles of un-parasitized colonies were similar to those that were parasitized indicating that it is the parasites that have adjusted their profile to match that of their host and not vice versa. This explains why these social parasites are fully integrated members of each colony and are treated as nest-mates.
It should be noted that in some species, for example Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Winter and Buschinger, 1986), raiding workers are frequently killed or driven off when trying to raid or invade new host colonies, since they are carrying their own host colony odour, which is likely to be different from that of the one they are raiding. This is why parasites continue to use a wide range of other chemical and morphological adaptations associated with their parasitic lifestyle. These include a thickened cuticle and production of appeasement or propaganda compounds (e.g. Allies et al., 1986; Lloyd et al., 1986; Ollett et al., 1987; D'Ettorre et al., 2000). These tactics allow the parasite time to make the necessary adjustments to its profile. Acquiring a host profile may be possible in just a few hours (R. Kather, pers. comm., cited in Guillem et al. (2014)).
This species is a host for the fungus Laboulbenia camponoti (a pathogen) (Espadaler & Santamaria, 2012).
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- universitatis. Camponotus universitatis Forel, 1890c: 218 (w.) FRANCE. Tinaut, Espadaler & Jimenez, 1992: 234 (q.m.). Combination in C. (Myrmoturba): Forel, 1914a: 267; in C. (Tanaemyrmex): Emery, 1925b: 98. See also: Baroni Urbani, 1971c: 187; Kutter, 1977c: 206.
- Baroni Urbani, C. 1971c. Catalogo delle specie di Formicidae d'Italia (Studi sulla mirmecofauna d'Italia X). Mem. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 50: 5-287 (page 187, see also)
- Buschinger, A. 2009. Social parasitism among ants: a review (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 12: 219-235.
- Emery, C. 1925d. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Formicinae. Genera Insectorum 183: 1-302 (page 98, Combination in C. (Tanaemyrmex))
- Espadaler, X., Santamaria, S. 2012. Ecto- and Endoparasitic Fungi on Ants from the Holarctic Region. Psyche Article ID 168478, 10 pages (doi:10.1155/2012/168478).
- Forel, A. 1890e. Une nouvelle fourmi. Naturaliste 12: 217-218 (page 218, worker described)
- Forel, A. 1914a. Le genre Camponotus Mayr et les genres voisins. Rev. Suisse Zool. 22: 257-276 (page 267, Combination in C. (Myrmoturba))
- Guillem, R.M., Drijfhout, F., & Martin, S.J. 2014. Chemical deception among ant social parasites. Current Zoology, 60(1), 62-75 (doi:10.1093/czoolo/60.1.62).
- Karaman, C. 2012. Camponotus ruseni n. sp. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) – A putative second parasitic species of the genus Camponotus Mayr. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 85, 309-317 (doi:10.2317/0022-8567-85.4.309).
- Karaman, C.; Kiran, K.; Aksoy, V.; Camlitepe, Y. 2015. First record of the South European rare parasitic ant species Camponotus universitatis Forel (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) in Asia. Journal of the Entomological Research Society 17(1):45-49.
- Kutter, H. 1977c. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Insecta Helv. Fauna 6: 1-298 (page 206, see also)
- Rigato, S.; Toni, I. 2011. Short notes 21. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Pp. 873-882 in: Nardi, G.; Whitmore, D.; Bardiani, M.; Birtele, D.; Mason, F.; Spada, L.; Cerretti, P. (eds.) 2011. Biodiversity of Marganai and Montimannu (Sardinia). Research in the framework of the ICP Forests network. Conservazione Habitat Invertebrati, 5. Sommacampagna, Verona: Cierre Edizioni, 896 pp.
- Tinaut, A.; Espadaler, X.; Jiménez, J. J. 1992. Camponotus universitatis Forel, 1891, en la Península Ibérica. Descripción de sus sexuados (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Nouv. Rev. Entomol. (n.s.) 9: 233-238 (page 234, queen, male described)