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Achenbach, Alexandra (2009): Coevolution in the slavemaking ant Protomognathus americanus and its Temnothorax host species: Influence of parasite pressure, behavioral adaptations and patterns of gene flow. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Biology



The aim of this thesis was to investigate the coevolutionary arms race between the slavemaker P. americanus and its Temnothorax host species from different perspectives. Previous studies on this obligate social parasite have already demonstrated the evolution of morphological, behavioral and chemical adaptations, and have given variable results on the strength of the selection pressure exerted by this parasite. Based on these results, Publication 1 investigates the direct and causal relationship of the parasite pressure exerted by P. americanus and the reaction of nest density, social structure and life history of its main host species T. longispinosus in two ant communities. Publication 2 also enlightens the effects of the substantial selection pressure of P. americanus on its host species, but with a focus on host behavior and defensive anti-parasite adaptations of Temnothorax workers, which are active after host workers are parasitized. Based on the finding of slave rebellion, Publication 3 further investigates the brood acceptance behavior of Temnothorax workers and a potential chemical, recognition mechanism to discriminate between pupae. Finally in Publication 4, a genetic study on the amount of genetic variability and the patterns of gene flow between social parasite- and host populations is presented.