Strepsipteran Associates

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The Strepsiptera (`twisted wing parasites') are a small order of insects that spend much of their lives as entomophagous parasitoids of other insects (Kathirithamby, 1989, 2008). Females in all strepsipteran families other than the Mengenellidae spend their entire lives inside their hosts, while adult males are free-living but extremely short-lived. Only strepsipterans in the family Myrmecolacidae parasitize ants (Quevillon & Hughes, 2018).

Female strepsipterans reproduce viviparously; the first larval instars consume their mother from the inside and then emerge through her head, which protrudes from the host’s body. Following emergence, these free-living larvae then actively seek out hosts. In the case of the Myrmecolacidae, males and females exhibit sexual dimorphism in their host choice, with males parasitizing ants while females parasitize orthopterans. Having found an ant host, the male strepsipteran larvae penetrate the cuticle and once inside, go through several larval stages before pupating. This development itself does not kill the host, rather, the host must remain alive until after the strepsipterans have completed their development. When the males are ready to emerge, they leave the host via the puparium, leaving a hole in the host that often becomes colonized by fungi (Kathirithamby, 2008). Ants parasitized by strepsipterans have been observed behaving unusually (Ogloblin, 1939; Hughes, Moya-Raygoza, & Kathirithamby, 2003; Kathirithamby et al., 2010).

The very short lifespan of the free-living, adult male strepsipterans and the entirely endoparasitic lifestyles of adult female strepsipterans make recording host associations with these insects difficult. Though ants were first recorded being infected by strepsipterans by Westwood in 1861, knowledge of host records remains limited, perhaps due in part to the ant collecting methods often employed by myrmecologists (Kathirithamby & Hughes, 2002).

Known host associations between strepsipterans and ants are summarized (Kathirithamby & Hughes, 2002; Hughes et al., 2003; Cook, 2009; Kathirithamby et al., 2010; Kathirithamby, 2017). Many additional strepsipterans in genera known to infect ants have been described but have unknown host associations (see Strepsiptera database). Quevillon & Hughes (2018) report 23 records of Strepsiptera from the genera Caenocholax, Myrmecolax, and Stichotrema infecting nine ant genera.

List of Ants Known to Host Strepsipterans

Ant Strepsipteran Species Locality Source Notes
Camponotus Apocephalus conecitonis Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode independent; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Camponotus Apocephalus paraponerae Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Camponotus atriceps Pseudacteon lontrae Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest
Camponotus crassus Stichotrema beckeri Cook, 2019
Camponotus cruentatus Pseudacteon obtusus Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode independent; direct transmission; transmission outside nest; as Camponotus punctulatus cruentatus
Camponotus maculatus Pseudacteon simplex Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Camponotus planatus Caenocholax fenyesi Mexico Kathirithamby & Hughes, 2002; Cook, 2019
Camponotus punctulatus Pseudacteon solenopsidis Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Camponotus punctulatus cruentus Caenocholax fenyesi Cook, 2019
Camponotus punctulatus cruentus Myrmecolax ogloblini Cook, 2019 reported as "''Camponotus punctulatus cruentatus'' Forel"
Camponotus punctulatus cruentus Stichotrema beckeri Cook, 2019
Camponotus variegatus papua Pseudacteon sp. Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Crematogaster Apocephalus cultellatus Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Crematogaster Stichotrema angolensis Cook, 2019
Crematogaster Stichotrema barrosmachadoi Cook, 2019
Crematogaster laeviuscula Caenocholax fenyesi Cook, 2019
Dolichoderus bispinosus Caenocholax fenyesi Mexico Hughes et al., 2003; Cook, 2019 strepsipteran unidentified in Hughes et al., 2003
Dolichoderus bispinosus Pseudacteon palomita Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Eciton dulcium Myrmecolax borgmeieri Cook, 2019
Eciton dulcium Pseudacteon pusillus Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Myrmelachista zeledoni Caenocholax fenyesi Cook, 2019
Neoponera apicalis Myrmecolax incautus Cook, 2019
Neoponera verenae Myrmecolax incautus Cook, 2019
Pheidole Apocephalus quadriglumis Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Pheidole Pseudacteon obtusus Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Pheidole Stichotrema robertsoni South Africa Kathirithamby, 1991; Cook, 2019
Pheidole jelskii Caenocholax fenyesi Cook, 2019
Pheidole radoszkowskii Caenocholax fenyesi Cook, 2019
Prionomyrmex species unknown (Strepsiptera, Myrmecolacidae?) Baltic amber Pohl & Kinzelbach, 2001
Pseudomyrmex Apocephalus glabriventris Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Pseudomyrmex acanthobius virgo Stichotrema beckeri Cook, 2019
Solenopsis invicta Caenocholax fenyesi United States (Texas) Kathirithamby & Johnston, 1992; Cook, 2019
Solenopsis invicta Pseudacteon onyx Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest
Solenopsis richteri Rhyncophoromyia conica Quevillon, 2018 encounter mode secondary; indirect transmission; transmission outside nest
Solenopsis richteri Stichotrema beckeri Cook, 2019

References