Communal silk-spinning by larvae of Dendromyrmex tree-ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)
- Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 02138, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Dendromyrmex chartifex andD. fabricii are weaver ants: the mature larvae of these formicine species add silk to the arboreal carton nests. This material strengthens the layers of vegetable fibers, which form the bulk of the nests and are contributed by the workers. The communal silk spinning is the most primitive yet discovered and may represent the first stage in the evolution of weaving. The larvae, rather than the workers that hold them in their mandibles, make the lateral weaving movements, and their behavior differs from conventional cocoon spinning only in the orientation of the movements relative to the body. Moreover, larvae often contribute silk in this manner even when unattended by workers. Both male and worker-destined larvae spin communally; whether they contribute equal quantities per capita remains to be determined. Other information on the natural history ofDendromyrmex based on field and laboratory studies is reported: the colonies are polydomous; the workers forage nocturnally and accept a wide variety of insect prey. The workers ofD. chartifex have unusual genal eyespots and behave in such a way as to resemble polybiine wasps, and it is suggested that they are in fact Batesian mimics of these stinging insects.
- 1 - sciences appliquees, technologies et medecines
- 2 - sciences biologiques et medicales
- 3 - sciences biologiques fondamentales et appliquees. psychologie
- 4 - invertebres
- 1 - Life Sciences ; 2 - Agricultural and Biological Sciences ; 3 - Insect Science
- 1 - Life Sciences ; 2 - Agricultural and Biological Sciences ; 3 - Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics