Ant mimicry is mimicry of ants by other organisms. Ants are abundant all over the world, and predators that rely on vision to identify their prey such as birds and wasps normally avoid them, either because they are unpalatable, or aggressive. Thus some other arthropods mimic ants to escape predation (protective mimicry). Conversely, some species (e.g. Zodariidae spiders) use their anatomical and behavioral ant mimicry to hunt ants (aggressive mimicry). Other cases are also known. The term myrmecomorphy or "myrmecomorphous" is also used to describe ant mimicry or an organism that uses ant mimicry.
80% of spiders with Batesian mimicry imitate ants, comprising more than 100 species. Ant-mimicking spiders can be found in the following spider families:
- Araneidae (e.g. Micrathena)
- Corinnidae (e.g. Apochinoma, Castianeira, Myrmecium, Corinna vertebrata, Mazax pax, M. spinosa, Myrmecotypus, Sphecotypus, Otacilia, Phrurolithus)
- Dysderidae (Harpactea hombergi preys on ants, behavioral mimic, not morphological)
- Eresidae (Seothyra schreineri males mimic small Camponotus castes)
- Gnaphosidae (e.g. Micaria, Callilepis nocturna)
- Prodidomidae (Myandra)
- Linyphiidae (Linyphia furtiva, Meioneta beata)
- Oonopidae (Diblemma donisthorpei mimics Wasmannia auropunctata)
- Salticidae (e.g. Agorius, Augustaea, Belippo, Bocus, Chalcolecta, Consingis, Corcovetella, Cosmophasis, Depreissia, Eburneana, Enoplomischus, Judalana, Kima, Leptorchestes, Martella, Marengo, Mexcala, Myrmarachne, Paradamoetas cara, Peckhamia picata, Philates, Sadies, Sarinda, Synageles, Synagelides, Synemosyna, Tutelina, Ugandinella, Uluella, Zuniga)
- Theridiidae (e.g. Anatea formicaria, Cerocida strigosa, Coleosoma floridanum (only males), Coleosoma acutiventer, Helvibis brasiliana, H. chilensis, Heleosoma floridanum, Melychiopharis cynips, Cerocida strigosa)
- Thomisidae (e.g. Amyciaea, Aphantochilus, Bucranium, Strophius nigricans)
- Zodariidae (e.g. Storena, Zodarion)
Some spiders (e.g. Zodariidae or some Myrmarachne) use their ant disguise to hunt ants, although most use their disguise to escape predators. In salticids, the latter can be discerned from the ants from the movements they make in order to keep the ants at an acceptable distance. Ant hunters often do not resemble ants as much.
Myrmarachne assimilis is the only Myrmarachne species that resembles the aggressive weaver ant Oecophylla smaragdina, with which it lives in close contact. Cosmophasis bitaeniata uses chemical mimicry to be accepted by the same ant species. It is suggested that M. assimilis uses a similar technique. Thus, its ant mimicry is twofold: in visual appearance to trick predators, but also to evade being hunted by the ants themselves.
Several spiders (e.g., most Myrmarachne) undergo transformational mimicry: because the spiderlings are too minute to convincingly mimic the much bigger ant species that the adult copies, they use other smaller ant species as a model.
The overall body of spider myrmecomorphs is much narrower than non-mimics, which reduces the number of eggs per eggsac, compared to non-mimetic spiders of similar size. They seem to compensate by laying more eggsacs in their lifetime. Ant-mimics usually use their first or second pair of legs to fake ant antennae, such reducing the number of functional legs to six.
Sometimes, the sexes each mimic a different model. There are also spiders where several morphs occur, each mimicking a different morph of the model ant species, or different ant species. For example, light yellow to brown morphs of Synemosyna aurantiaca mimic Pseudomyrmex flavidulus and P. oculatus, while black morphs mimic P. gracilis and P. sericeus.
Even within a closely related group of taxa ant mimicry might have originated several times independently. This is demonstrated in the Salticidae subfamily Ballinae.
Among the bugs, the wingless Myrmecoris gracilis looks like an ant and feeds on ant larvae. Pithanus maerkeli is also ant-like. Systellonotus triguttatus, in which nymphs and females strongly resemble ants, is often found in the vicinity of ants. Dulichius inflatus (Alydidae) closely resembles ants of the genus Polyrhachis. Males of Formiscurra indicus (Caliscelidae) appear like an ant.
Franklinothrips is a genus of thrips that is predatory. Especially the females mimic ants in appearance and behavior. Ant mimicry also occurs in other genera of Aeolothripidae, where it has arisen independently, for example Aeolothrips albicinctus in Europe and A. bicolor in North America, the Australian species Desmothrips reedi, Allelothrips with seven species from Africa and India, Stomatothrips with eight species from the Americas. This kind of mimicry probably evolved as a response to the presence of ants.
Extatosoma tiaratum, while resembling dried thorny leaves as an adult, hatches from the egg as a replica of a Leptomyrmex ant, with a red head and black body. The long end is curled to make the body shape appear ant-like, and the movement is erratic, while the adults move differently, if at all. In some species the eggs resemble plant seeds, complete with a mimic elaiosome (called a "capitulum") as in plants that are associated with ants in myrmecochory. These eggs are collected by the ants and taken to their nests. The capitulum is removed and eaten and the eggs continue to be viable.
While praying mantids are carnivorous insects, they also are in danger of being eaten by larger animals. The nymphs of the Ghost mantis, Phyllocrania paradoxa, looks like a black ant to repel predators. In later instars, it gets a brownish color and looks like a leaf. Mantids of the genus Creobroter use ant mimicry when young as well.
There are several fly species that look like an ant.
Many parasitic Staphylinidae that march with army ants strikingly resemble their hosts. An outstanding example is Ecitomorpha nevermanni, whose color varies to match the color variation of its host Eciton burchellii. Since Eciton army ants have poor vision, this is probably an example of Batesian mimicry to escape predation by vertebrates.
Some genera of the Anthicidae are ant-like in appearance, for example Anthelephila cyanea.Anthelephila do not however associate with ants, so presumably the resemblance is purely to discourage predators.
Members of the cerambycid genus Euderces are ant mimics. E. velutinus mimics Camponotus sericeiventris. Several other cerambycids also resemble ants. The Central American Mallocera spinicollis Bates, 1872, Neoclytus and Diphyrama singularis Bates, 1872 all closely resemble stinging ants. Pseudomyrmecion ramalium Bedel, 1885 closely resembles Crematogaster scutellaris in size and coloration and leaves in close vicinity to it. In North America certain Anthoboscus, Cyrtophorus and Tillomorpha are ant mimics. Cyrtinus pygmaeus resembles Lasius niger americanus, and Michthisoma heterodoxum mimics small workers of Camponotus pennsylvanicus.
|This section requires expansion. (June 2008)|
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