The evolution of eusociality in ants and termites propelled both insect groups to their modern ecological dominance. Yet, eusociality also fostered the evolution of social parasitism - an adverse symbiosis, in which the superorganismal colonies formed by these insects are infiltrated by a profusion of invertebrate species that target nest resources. Predominant among these are the aleocharine rove beetles (Staphylinidae), a vast and ecologically diverse subfamily with numerous morphologically and behaviourally specialized socially parasitic lineages. Here, we report a fossil aleocharine, Mesosymbion compactus gen. et sp. nov., in Burmese amber (∼99 million years old), displaying specialized anatomy that is a hallmark of social parasites. Mesosymbion coexisted in the Burmese palaeofauna with stem-group ants and termites that provide the earliest indications of eusociality in both insect groups. We infer that the advent of eusociality led automatically and unavoidably to selection for social parasitism. The antiquity and adaptive flexibility of aleocharines made them among the first organisms to engage in this type of symbiosis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)