Mimicry

Every Ant Tells a Story - And Scientists Explain Their Stories Here
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Mimicry of ants is a fairly common and widespread phenomenon involving a large number of ant and non-ant species. These include a range of insects from at least 10 orders as well as spiders from at least 9 families. Mimics can be found world-wide in all habitats where ants occur.

Mimicry can take two forms: myrmecomorphy and myrmecophily. Myrmecomorphy is a subset of ant mimicry which includes all species that resemble ants through convergence in morphological, behavioral, chemical, or textural characters. Myrmecophiles are those arthropods that associate closely with ants but do not necessarily resemble them (Kistner, 1982). Unlike most myrmecomorphic species, myrmecophiles are typically convergent in chemical and/or textural characters that facilitate a close relationship with their ant models (Holldobler, 1971). Some myrmecophiles are also myrmecomorphic, and these have been named Wasmannian mimics (Rettenmeyer, 1970) after the pioneering work of Wasmann (e.g. Wasmann, 1925).

Photo Gallery

  • An ant-mimicking katydid nymph (subfamily Phaneropterinae). Photo by Paul Bertner.
  • Ant-mimicking orthopteran nymph.
  • The stereotyped, raised body posture of a foraging Crematogaster ampla worker; B. the same raised body posture seen in a foraging worker of the turtle ant Cephalotes specularis when running in C. ampla foraging trails. Photo by Scott Powell, from Powell et al. 2018. Figure 1. A.

References

  • Holldobler, B. 1971. Communication between ants and their guests. Scientific American 224: 86-93.
  • Kistner, D. H. 1982. The social insects’ bestiary. In Social Insects, Vol 3, ed. H. R. Hermann. pp. 1-244. New York: Academic. 491 pp.
  • McIver, J., Stonedahl, G. 1993. Myrmecomorphy: Morphological and behavioral mimicry of ants. Annual Review of Entomology 38:351-377 (doi:10.1146/annurev.en.38.010193.002031).
  • McIver, J., Stonedahl, G. 2008. Myrmecomorphy. In: Capinera, J.L. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Entomology. Springer, Dordrecht (doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-6359-6_4761).
  • Rettenmeyer, C. W. 1970. Insect mimicry. Annual Review of Entomology 15: 49-74
  • Wasmann, E. 1925. Die Ameisenmimikry. Abh. Theor. Biol. 19: 168.