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Data from: Social transmission of information about a mutualist via trophallaxis in ant colonies


Hayashi, Masayuki; Hojo, Masaru K.; Nomura, Masashi; Tsuji, Kazuki (2017), Data from: Social transmission of information about a mutualist via trophallaxis in ant colonies, Dryad, Dataset,


Partner discrimination is crucial in mutualistic interactions between organisms to counteract cheating by the partner. Trophobiosis between ants and aphids is a model system of such mutualistic interaction. To establish and maintain the mutualistic association, ants need to correctly discriminate mutualistic aphids. However, the mechanism by which ants recognize aphids as their partners is poorly understood, despite its ecological and evolutionary importance. Here, we show for the first time the evidence that interaction with nest-mates that have tended aphids (Aphis craccivora) allows ants (Tetramorium tsushimae) to learn to recognize the aphid species as their partner. When ants had previously tended aphids, they moderated their aggressiveness towards aphids. More importantly, ants that had interacted with aphid-experienced nest-mates also reduced their aggressiveness towards aphids, even though they had never directly experienced them, indicating that aphid information was transmitted from aphid-experienced ants to inexperienced ants. Furthermore, inhibition of mouth-to-mouth contact (trophallaxis) from aphid-experienced ants to inexperienced ants by providing the inexperienced ants with artificial honeydew solution caused the inexperienced ants to become aggressive towards aphids. These results, with further supporting data, strongly suggest that ants transfer information on their mutualists during trophallactic interactions.

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