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The Slave-Making Ant, Harpagoxenus Canadensis M. R. Smith, and Its Host-Species, Leptothorax Muscorum (Nylander): Slave Raiding and Territoriality

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The territorial hypothesis suggests that slave raiding in ants evolved from the territorial behaviour of free-living ancestors. In this study, the slave raiding behaviour of Harpagoxenus canadensis was observed and compared to the territorial behaviour of its host species, Leptothorax muscorum. Under laboratory conditions, colonies of both species attack and raid nearby L. muscorum nests, and display very similar raiding behaviours. At the conclusion of their raids, both species appropriate brood from raided nests. However, H. canadensis colonies rear the captured brood to produce slave workers, while L. muscorum colonies mutilate it and feed it to their larvae. In H. canadensis colonies, slaves join with the slave-makers in all aspects of raiding activity; and the differential treatment of captured brood was the only major difference we observed between the behaviour of enslaved and unenslaved L. muscorum workers. During interactions between colonies, workers of both species explore laboratory arenas ("scouting"), and attack alien members of either species that they encounter. Nonetheless, H. canadensis workers are markedly superior to L. muscorum in their fighting abilities, and consequently their colonies are capable of conducting successful raids against much larger host-species colonies. Workers of both species recruit nestmates to the scene of fights by leading tandem runs ("alarm-recruitment"); a behaviour which is typical of the territorial behaviour of various ant species. However, the discovery of such recruitment in H. canadensis is remarkable because all other known obligatory Lep- tothoracine slave-makers recruit nestmates during their slave raids only after they discover the target-colony's nest, and thereafter only lead recruitment to the target nest itself. These more specialized forms of slave-raid recruitment occur in an aggressive inter- colonial context virtually identical to that of alarm-recruitment and could easily have evolved from the alarm-recruitment of free-living ancestors. Tandem-run recruitment also occurred during the transport of captured brood following raids by colonies of either species. However, the context of this recruitment was quite different from that performed during the early stages of raids. Since H. canadensis colonies rear captured brood, this recruitment may be analogous to that led during emigrations to new nest sites ("transport-recruitment"). However, for L. muscorum colonies, this recruitment might be more properly considered as analogous to that led to food sources ("food-recruitment"). The results of this study demonstrate that all of the major elements which comprise the slave raids of H. canadensis and other Leptothoracine slave-makers occur during the apparently opportunistic, territorial raids of L. muscorum, and implicate such territorial behaviour as the proximate ancestor to slave raiding in this group of ants. The relatively minor differences which do occur can be regarded as specializations for slave-making. Since H. canadensis retains alarm-recruitment as a means of slave-raid recruitment, its slave raids can be regarded as the most primitive in the genus Harpagoxenus; and relatively more primitive than those of any other known obligatory Leptothoracine slave-maker.

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/content/journals/10.1163/156853983x00048
1983-01-01
2015-03-30

Affiliations: 1: (Erindale College, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ont. Canada L5L 1C6

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