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Ants of the Northern-hemispheric, temperate genus Lasius (Formicinae) are scientifically significant, in terms of relative abundance and ecological impact [1,2]. Because of the diversity of their signal and defense chemistry, Lasius ants are organisms widely used in chemical ecology [2-7] and the wide range of colony organisations makes the genus an ideal system for exploring social evolution [8- 12]. Two further complex traits found in Lasius are yet to be adequately understood: social parasitism and fungiculture.

The social parasitism exhibited in Lasius is temporary in that it is confined to the early stages of the parasite's colony: the parasitic queen founds her colony through entering a host colony where she kills the resident queen and takes over the worker force [1,2,13].

In ants, fungiculture has evolved independently at least twice: in attines (members of the Myrmicinae), which culture the fungi for food, and in Lasius ants, which use fungi to build composite nest walls [29-33].

1. Seifert B: Die Ameisen Mittel- und Nordeuropas Tauer: lutra Verlagsund Vertriebsgesellschaft; 2007.

2. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO: The Ants Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 1990.

3. Akino T, Yamaoka R: Trail discrimination signal of Lasius japonicus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Chemoecology 2005, 15:21-30.

4. Kern F, Klein RW, Janssen E, Bestmann H-J, Attygalle AB, Schäfer D, Maschwitz U: Mellein, a trail pheromone component of the ant Lasius fuliginosus. J Chem Ecol 1997, 23:779-792.

5. Wu J, Mori K: Synthesis of the enantiomers of 2,6-dimethyl-6-helpten-1-ol, a mandibular gland secretion of the male ant Lasius niger. Agric Biol Chem 1991, 55:2667-2668.

6. Akino T, Yamaoka R: Evidence for volatile and contact signals of nestmate recognition in the black shining ant Lasius fuliginosus Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Entomol Sci 2000, 3:1-8.

7. Morgan ED: Chemical sorcery for sociality: Exocrine secretions of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecol News 2008, 11:79-90.

8. Steiner FM, Schlick-Steiner BC, Moder K, Stauffer C, Arthofer W, Buschinger A, Espadaler X, Christian E, Einfinger K, Lorbeer E, Schafellner C, Ayasse M, Crozier RH: Abandoning aggression but maintaining self-nonself discrimination as a first stage in ant supercolony formation. Curr Biol 2007, 17:1903-1907.

9. Bourke AFG, Franks NR: Social Evolution in Ants Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 1995.

10. Crozier RH, Pamilo P: Evolution of Social Insect Colonies New York:Oxford University Press; 1996.

11. Fjerdingstad EJ, Gertsch PJ, Keller L: The relationship between multiple mating by queens, within-colony genetic variability and fitness in the ant Lasius niger. J Evol Biol 2003, 16:844-853.

12. Boomsma JJ, Have TM van der: Queen mating and paternity variation in the ant Lasius niger. Mol Ecol 1998, 7:1709-1718.

13. Buschinger A: Evolution of social parasitism in ants. Trends Ecol Evol 1986, 1:155-160.

29. Maschwitz U, Hölldobler B: Der Kartonnestbau bei Lasius fuliginosus Latr. (Hym., Formicidae). Z vergl Physiol 1970, 66:176-189.

30. Elliott JSB: Fungi in the nests of ants. Trans Br Mycol Soc 1915, 5:138-142.

31. Fresenius JBGW: Beiträge zur Mykologie 2 Frankfurt: HL Brönner Verlag; 1852.

32. Lagerheim G: Ueber Lasius fuliginosus (Latr.) und seine Pilzzucht. Entomol Tidskr Arg 1900, 21:2-29.

33. Schlick-Steiner BC, Steiner FM, Konrad H, Seifert B, Christian E, Moder K, Stauffer C, Crozier RH: Specificity and transmission mosaic of ant nest wall fungi. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2008, 105:941-944.

From Maruyama et al. 2008


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