This dataset is part of the study of mimetic host shifts in an endangered social parasite of ants, which is a joint study of the NERC's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UK), the University of Oxford (UK), University of Bialystok (Poland), Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland) and UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Germany). It derives from cross-over experiments using ant worker rescue behaviour towards caterpillars of the socially parasitic butterfly from two host-ecotypes. The data comprise datasets collected from four 4 experiments 3 hours after testing and from 4 experiments 7 days later. They all include nest numbers, the order of retrieval ranked by the attention of nurse ants to the ant pupae, large larvae and small larvae and the adult M. rebeli. The data give the rank order of test items as they were rescued in order to explain social status achieved in natural and unnatural host colonies. Detailed research method can be found in Thomas et al. (2013) Mimetic host shifts in an endangered social parasite of ants. Proc. R. Soc. B vol. 280 no.1751. (doi:10.1098/rspb.2012.2336)
Publication date: 2013-01-22
We assessed the social status achieved by each form of M. rebeli within colonies of each Myrmica species in a standard bioassay that involved perturbing laboratory ant colonies and recording the order in which the ants' own brood or the mimetic caterpillars were rescued. Groups of 5 butterfly larvae from each region were adopted into matching colonies of naïve French M. schencki and M. sabuleti. Every test colony also contained 5 brood items each of kin ant pupae, large and small larvae, making a total of 20 immature individuals and 20 workers per replicate. Cultures were established in laboratory colonies containing a small moist sponge pad beneath an inverted 6 cm diameter saucer with a notched entrance, under which the ants gathered their brood and M. rebeli. Three hours after the M. rebeli caterpillars had been introduced, we perturbed the experimental colonies by uncovering the brood chamber and relocating it over another pad nearby; we then recorded the order in which the nurse ants rescued their 15 brood items or the 5 M. rebeli and carried them into the new nest. The same experiment was repeated 7 days later, which represents a sufficient period for M. rebeli caterpillars to attain their maximum potential integration with a host society, yet remaining a similar size to when first adopted, i.e. the same size or smaller than the Myrmica pupae and large larvae. The number of replicates for each ant-butterfly combination tested varied due to a lack of some ants and butterfly deaths (especially with unnatural hosts).