Deep-Time Convergence in Rove Beetle Symbionts of Army Ants.

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Current biology : CB, ISSN: 1879-0445, Vol: 27, Issue: 6, Page: 920-926

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10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.030; 10.3410/f.727397646.793533899
Maruyama, Munetoshi; Parker, Joseph
Faculty of 1000, Ltd.; Elsevier BV
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; Agricultural and Biological Sciences
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article description
Recent adaptive radiations provide striking examples of convergence [1-4], but the predictability of evolution over much deeper timescales is controversial, with a scarcity of ancient clades exhibiting repetitive patterns of phenotypic evolution [5, 6]. Army ants are ecologically dominant arthropod predators of the world's tropics, with large nomadic colonies housing diverse communities of socially parasitic myrmecophiles [7]. Remarkable among these are many species of rove beetle (Staphylinidae) that exhibit ant-mimicking "myrmecoid" body forms and are behaviorally accepted into their aggressive hosts' societies: emigrating with colonies and inhabiting temporary nest bivouacs, grooming and feeding with workers, but also consuming the brood [8-11]. Here, we demonstrate that myrmecoid rove beetles are strongly polyphyletic, with this adaptive morphological and behavioral syndrome having evolved at least 12 times during the evolution of a single staphylinid subfamily, Aleocharinae. Each independent myrmecoid clade is restricted to one zoogeographic region and highly host specific on a single army ant genus. Dating estimates reveal that myrmecoid clades are separated by substantial phylogenetic distances-as much as 105 million years. All such groups arose in parallel during the Cenozoic, when army ants diversified into modern genera [12] and rose to ecological dominance [13, 14]. This work uncovers a rare example of an ancient system of complex morphological and behavioral convergence, with replicate beetle lineages following a predictable phenotypic trajectory during their parasitic adaptation to host colonies.