Fire Ant Symbiotes – Martineziana dutertrei

18 Oct

 

Fire Ant Symbiote, Martineziana dutertrei

A fire ant symbiote, Martineziana dutertrei, with host species.

 

Here’s another cohabitant I frequently turn up in fire ant nests.  These tiny black beetles belong to one of the largest and most diverse beetle families, Scarabaeidae, the scarab beetles.  They fool their ant hosts by coating themselves in chemicals that cause them to smell and taste like ants.  When I went to research more information on these interesting little beetles I could find very few scientific studies addressing them.  These beetles, Martineziana dutertrei, seem to function primarily as parasites of the ant colonies that host them, stealing prey and other nutrients, and even eating ant larvae.

 

An ectosymbiotic scarab beetle with a member of its fire ant host species.

An ectosymbiotic scarab beetle with a member of its fire ant host species.

 

Martineziana dutertrei was apparently introduced to the United States at some point during the introduction of its host species, either the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, or the black imported fire ant, Solenopsis richteri.  This beetle species are now also found in the nests of a native relative of the infamous imported fire ants, the tropical fire ant Solenopsis geminata, where the beetles have evidently somewhat displaced their own native relative.

 

A myrmecophilous scarab beetle with its fire ant host species.

A myrmecophilous scarab beetle with its fire ant host species.

 

 

A myrmecophilous scarab beetle in fire ant brood pile.

A myrmecophilous scarab beetle in fire ant brood pile.

 

 

A fire ant symbiote, Martineziana dutertrei

A fire ant symbiote, Martineziana dutertrei, with host species.

 

 

Aphodiine Scarab Beetle - Martineziana dutertrei

Aphodiine Scarab Beetle - Martineziana dutertrei

 

 

Aphodiine Scarab Beetle - Martineziana dutertrei

Aphodiine Scarab Beetle - Martineziana dutertrei

 

Reference: Wojcik, et al.  Ins. Soc. 38:273-281 (1991)

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One Response to “Fire Ant Symbiotes – Martineziana dutertrei”

  1. Mike Duron August 24, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    Wonderful pictures! What a fascinating little beetle. I’d never heard of them before. I wonder how many decades, centuries, or even longer this relationship has existed….

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