How Do Scale Insects Settle into the Nests of Plant-Ants on Macaranga Myrmecophytes? Dispersal by Wind and Selection by Plant-Ants
Keywords:ant-plant, ant–hemipteran interaction, mutualism, Southeast Asian tropical rain forest, Borneo
This report elucidates the process of settlement by Coccus scale insects into Crematogaster plant-ant nests formed inside the hollow stems of a myrmecophytic species, Macaranga bancana, in a tropical rain forest. We collected wafting scale insect nymphs from the canopy using sticky traps and characterized the DNA sequence of the trapped nymphs. In addition, we experimentally introduced first-instar nymphs of both symbiotic and nonsymbiotic scale insects to M. bancana seedlings with newly formed plant-ant colonies. Nymphs of symbiotic species were generally carried by ants into their nests within a few minutes of introduction. Most nymphs of nonsymbiotic species were thrown to the ground by ants. Our results suggest that in Crematogaster–Macaranga myrmecophytism, symbiotic coccids disperse by wind onto host plant seedlings at the nymphal stage, and plant-ants actively carry the nymphs landing on seedlings into their nests in discrimination from nonsymbiotic scale insects.
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