The parasite pressure exerted by the slavemaker ant Protomognathus americanus on its host species Leptothorax longispinosus was analyzed demographically and genetically. The origin of slaves found in colonies of the obligate slavemaker was examined with nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers to make inferences about the frequency and severity of slave raids. Relatedness of enslaved L. longispinosus workers in the same nest was very low, and our data suggest that, on average, each slavemaker nest raids six host colonies per season. Therefore, the influence of slavemaker species on their hosts is much stronger than simple numerical ratios suggest. We also found that slave relatedness was higher in small than in large slavemaker nests; thus, larger nests wield a much stronger influence on the host. We estimated that in the study population, on average, a host nest has a 50% chance of being attacked by a slavemaker colony per year. Free-living Leptothorax colonies in the vicinity of slavemaker nests did not represent the source of slaves working in P. americanus colonies, which suggests that raided nests either do not survive or migrate after being raided. Colony composition and intranest relatedness of free-living L. longispinosus colonies differed markedly between areas with slavemakers and those that are parasite-free. In the presence of slavemakers, host colonies were less likely to be polygynous and had fewer workers and a higher relatedness among worker brood. Host nests with slavemaker neighbors allocated more resources into sexuals, possibly caused by these shifts in nest demography. Finally, enslaved Leptothorax workers in P. americanus nests appeared to be less efficient than their counterparts in free-living colonies. Thus, slavemakers exert a much stronger impact on their hosts than had previously been suspected and represent an unique system to study parasite-host coevolution.
Vol. 55 • No. 2
Vol. 55 • No. 2