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Naturwissenschaften. 2003 Oct;90(10):456-9. Epub 2003 Aug 21.

Olfactive detection of fig wasps as prey by the ant Crematogaster scutellaris (Formicidae; Myrmicinae).

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  • 1Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), U.M.R. 5175 CNRS, 1919 route de Mende, 34293, Montpellier, France.


In the species-specific and obligate mutualism between the fig (Ficus carica) and its pollinator (the fig wasps Blastophaga psenes), a third participant, the ant Crematogaster scutellaris, is a predator of the wasps. Here, we ask how ant workers can rapidly localise such prey, whose availability is limited in time and space. Using a Y-tube olfactometer, we tested ant response to odours emitted by different types of figs (receptive female, ripe female or male figs) and by fig wasps (pollinators or non-pollinators). We demonstrate that ants were significantly attracted only to odours emitted by pollinators, either alone or associated with odours of male figs (releasing wasps). Detection of prey odour by ants is an important trait that can explain their observed high rate of predation on pollinators, and could have important implications on the stability of the fig/fig wasp mutualism.

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