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 . 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  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.
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The pair here are from different orders but the beetle has achieved a level of physical, behavioural and olfactory mimicry that convinces the ant that it is one of its own! The beetle , one of many species, is Ecitophya simulans; the army ant is a worker of the common South ...
Oct. 30, 2017
Paul Manning, Postdoctoral fellow, Dalhousie University
Gory and gross, insects use disguises to improve their odds of survival. PixabayWith Halloween upon us, it’s worth remembering that living things take part in similar costume parties all year long, adopting weird and wonderful forms. Though rather than a haul of candy, organis...
Ученые показали на примере мирмекофильных жуков, что ход эволюции не так уж непредсказуем, как считалось ранее. В схожих условиях естественный отбор действует как по шаблону, заставляя разные виды принимать один и тот же облик, несмотря на очень отдаленное родство между ними.
Marauding across the forest floor, aggressive army ant colonies harbor hidden enemies in their ranks -- parasitic beetles. Through dramatic changes in body shape, behavior, and pheromone chemistry, the beetles gain their hosts' acceptance, so they can feast on their brood. The...
Marauding across the tropical forest floor, aggressive army ant colonies harbor hidden enemies within their ranks. The impostors look and smell like army ants, march with the ants, and even groom the ants. But far from being altruistic nest-mates, these creatures are parasitic...
Army ant colonies are home to a treasure trove of raided food and helpless juveniles that other insects would love to feed on. But one does not simply walk into an army ant colony and start eating. Ill-prepared intruders would face swarms of aggressive ants eager to defend the...