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What does not kill you makes you peaceful: Non-lethal fungal infection could reduce aggression towards strangers in ants

Citation

Csata, Enikő et al. (2022), What does not kill you makes you peaceful: Non-lethal fungal infection could reduce aggression towards strangers in ants, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.8gtht76s4

Abstract

Many parasites interfere with the behaviour of their hosts. In social animals, such as ants, parasitic interference can cause changes on the level of the individual and also on the level of the society. The ant-parasitic fungus Rickia wasmannii influences the behaviour of Myrmica ants by expanding the host’s nestmate recognition template, thereby increasing the chance of the colony accepting infected non-nestmates. Infected ants consistently show an increase of the alkane tricosane (n-C23) in their cuticular hydrocarbon profiles. Although experimental application of single compounds often elicits aggression towards manipulated ants, we hypothesized that the increase of n-C23 might underlie the facilitated acceptance of infected non-nestmates. To test this, we mimicked fungal infection in M. scabrinodis by applying synthetic n-C23 to fresh ant corpses and observing the reaction of infected and uninfected workers to control and manipulated corpses. Infected ants appeared to be more peaceful towards infected but not uninfected non-nestmates. Adding n-C23 to uninfected corpses resulted in reduced aggression in uninfected ants. This supports the hypothesis that n-C23 acts as a pacifying’ signal. Our study indicates that parasitic interference with the nestmate discrimination of host ants might eventually change colony structure by increasing genetic heterogeneity in infected colonies. Here we present the data that stood at the basis of the study.

Methods

The uploaded dataset contains four parts: three data sheet files (.csv) with (a) dyadic interaction assays between live individuals and corpses/dummies with different treatments originating from foreign colonies, infected or uninfected; (b) dyadic interaction assays between live individuals and corpses/dummies originating from the same colony as the live individuals - control tests; (c) chemical data referring to the relative abundance of n-C23 in the cuticular hydrocarbon profile (CHC-profile) of different samples, uninfected and infected; and (d) 10 chromatograms (.qgd files). In all cases, data originated from the ant species Myrmica scabrinodis. The details of the tests and the analyses are given in the provided preprint https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-1305759/v1. The dyadic tests were performed in a blind manner.

Usage Notes

The datasheet file can be opened with any software handling .csv files, e.g. Microsoft Excel, Open Office, Libra Office, etc. The chromatograms can be handled with the software LabSolution by Shimadzu Corporation, but they can also be opened with OpenChrom a free software (https://openchrom.net/download). At the moment the latest version is 1.5.0.

Funding

Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation, Award: PN-II-RU-TE-2014-4-1930