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1 October 2004 BACTERICIDAL AND FUNGICIDAL ACTIVITY OF ANT CHEMICALS ON FEATHER PARASITES: AN EVALUATION OF ANTING BEHAVIOR AS A METHOD OF SELF-MEDICATION IN SONGBIRDS
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Abstract

Songbirds apply ants to their feathers during anting behavior, possibly as a method of reducing feather parasites. We tested polar and nonpolar ant secretions and pure formic acid for bactericidal and fungicidal effects on microbial ectoparasites of feathers. Microbial inhibition trials were run with the bacteria Bacillus licheniformis (strains OWU 138B and OWU 1432B) and B. subtilis; and with the fungi Chaetomium globosum, Penicillium chrysogenum, and Trichoderma viride. Ant chemicals were derived from Camponotus pennsylvanicus, Pheidole dentata, Aphaenogaster rudis, Crematogaster lineolata, and Lasius flavus worker-caste ants. Although pure formic acid strongly inhibited all bacteria and fungal hyphae tested, concentrations of formic acid found in the bodies of formicine ants did not. Neither hexane ant-chemical extracts nor ant suspensions in deionized water inhibited the microbial species. Consequently, the hypothesis that birds apply ants to control feather parasites was not supported.

Hannah C. Revis and Deborah A. Waller "BACTERICIDAL AND FUNGICIDAL ACTIVITY OF ANT CHEMICALS ON FEATHER PARASITES: AN EVALUATION OF ANTING BEHAVIOR AS A METHOD OF SELF-MEDICATION IN SONGBIRDS," The Auk 121(4), 1262-1268, (1 October 2004). https://doi.org/10.1642/0004-8038(2004)121[1262:BAFAOA]2.0.CO;2
Received: 2 May 2003; Accepted: 24 June 2004; Published: 1 October 2004
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