Ant crickets (Orthoptera, Myrmecophilidae) are typical ant guests that obtain nourishment from the ants in their nests. Some ant crickets are host-specific, whereas other species are host-generalists. We investigated the behavioral polarization between the specialist cricket Myrmecophilus albicinctus and generalist Myrmecophilus formosanus. In the field, M. albicinctus was found exclusively in nests of Anoplolepis gracilipes (185/185), whereas 62 M. formosanus were found in nests of 9 ant species from 3 subfamilies. Behavioral observations revealed that M. albicinctus could not survive in the absence of A. gracilipes and was killed when it was introduced into colonies of non-host ant species. In addition, M. albicinctus showed intimate behavior, such as trophallaxis, with its host. In contrast, M. formosanus swiftly avoided frequent attacks by host ants, independently took food, and survived well in the absence of ants. Overall, the specialist adapted its behavior and physiology to those of a specific ant host, whereas the generalist adopted versatile parasitic behaviors, such as quick movements. Our findings revealed interspecific polarization in the degree of host dependence and inquiline-host interaction, and they indicate that trade-offs occur between specialization to specific hosts and retention of generalization in order to exploit alternative hosts.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science