Brief Communications

Nature 419, 897 (31 October 2002) | doi:10.1038/419897a

Chemical mimicry: Male ants disguised by the queen's bouquet

Sylvia Cremer1,2, Matthew F. Sledge3 & Jürgen Heinze1

Males of the tropical ant Cardiocondyla obscurior are either wingless and aggressive or winged and docile, and both compete for access to virgin queens in the nest1, 2. Although the fighter males (ergatoids) attack and kill other ergatoids, they tolerate and even attempt to mate with their winged rivals. Here we show that the winged males avoid the aggression of wingless males by mimicking the chemical bouquet of virgin queens, but that their mating success is not reduced as a result. This example of female mimicry by vigorous males is surprising, as in other species it is typically used as a protective strategy by weaker males, and may explain the coexistence and equal mating success of two male morphs.

  1. Biology 1, University of Regensburg, 93040 Regensburg, Germany
  2. Present address: Department of Population Ecology, Zoological Institute, University of Copenhagen, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. Department of Animal Biology and Genetics, University of Florence, 50125 Florence, Italy

Correspondence to: Sylvia Cremer1,2 e-mail: Email: sylvia.cremer@biologie.uni-regensburg.de