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Co-habiting tiny and large ants in the Ivory Coast

Ant colonies do not only accommodate myrmecophiles, but sometimes also other ant species. Associations between co-housing are typically parasitic in nature. A few cases, however, are known of beneficial associations between social insects. We studied such a rare association between two Afrotropical species that share the same nest even though they lack matching colony odors. The large ant Platythyrea conradti benefited from the presence of Strumigenys maynei as this tiny, but highly aggressive, ant was much more efficient in attacking intranidal and extranidal enemies. S. maynei in turn took advantage of P. conradti as this ant constructs a unique nest which attracts suitable prey (PDF).


The compound nests can typically be found in hollow tree trunks plugged with organic material. Aside from the two ant species, we also found silverfish, springtails and beetles in the nest environment.

This study was featured in the NewScientist

New scientist

Association between the small guest ant (Formicoxenus)  and red wood ants

Red wood ant mounds can also harbour colonies of the myrmicine ant Formicoxenus nitidulus. The brood of this small guest ant is seperated from the red wood ant brood. The exact nature of the association is poorly known, but probably the Formicoxenus ants steal food and food droplets from their host (xenobiosis). In an upcoming porject we want to clarify the exact nature of the interaction between these co-housing ants.

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