Rapid anti-pathogen response in ant societies relies on high genetic diversity Journal Article

Author(s): Ugelvig, Line V; Kronauer, Daniel J; Schrempf, Alexandra; Heinze, Jürgen; Cremer, Sylvia
Article Title: Rapid anti-pathogen response in ant societies relies on high genetic diversity
Abstract: Social organisms are constantly exposed to infectious agents via physical contact with conspecifics. While previous work has shown that disease susceptibility at the individual and group level is influenced by gen- etic diversity within and between group members, it remains poorly understood how group-level resistance to pathogens relates directly to individual physiology, defence behaviour and social interactions. We investigated the effects of high versus low genetic diversity on both the individual and collective disease defences in the ant Cardiocondyla obscurior. We compared the antiseptic behaviours (grooming and hygienic behaviour) of workers from genetically homogeneous and diverse colonies after exposure of their brood to the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae. While workers from diverse colonies performed intensive allogrooming and quickly removed larvae covered with live fungal spores from the nest, workers from homogeneous colonies only removed sick larvae late after infection. This difference was not caused by a reduced repertoire of antiseptic behaviours or a generally decreased brood care activity in ants from homogeneous colonies. Our data instead suggest that reduced genetic diversity compromises the ability of Cardiocondyla colonies to quickly detect or react to the presence of pathogenic fungal spores before an infection is established, thereby affecting the dynamics of social immunity in the colony.
Keywords: Inbreeding; social immunity; hygienic behaviour; grooming; Cardiocondyla ants; Metarhizium fungi
Journal Title: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences
Volume: 277
Issue 1695
ISSN: 0962-8452
Publisher: Royal Society, The  
Date Published: 2010-05-05
Start Page: 2821
End Page: 2828
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0644
Open access: yes (repository)