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Chemical strategies of myrmecophiles to deal with ants: a multidisciplinary approach

Grant number: 21/00984-7
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): March 01, 2022
Effective date (End): February 29, 2024
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Zoology - Animal Behavior
Principal researcher:Fábio Santos do Nascimento
Grantee:Luan Dias Lima
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto (FFCLRP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Ribeirão Preto , SP, Brazil


Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) are ecologically dominant insects that use chemical cues and signals for recognition and communication. Despite their elaborated recognition system, several organisms called myrmecophiles, including agricultural pests, have relationships with ants ranging from beneficial interactions such as mutualism to exploitation and parasitism. These relationships are common in the Cerrado that is an ideal site to test and understand the impact of ants on myrmecophile survival. Myrmecophiles use chemical strategies such as chemical insignificance, chemical camouflage, and chemical mimicry to deal with ants. However, there is an inconsistency regarding the terminology of these strategies and a gap of knowledge on how they might be dependent on the diet, behavior, and kind of relationship with ants. Thus, we intend to comparatively study complex multitrophic systems involving myrmecophiles, ants, and plants, as well as their diets and behavior in a multidisciplinary approach. This project proposes to (1) demonstrate the occurrence of chemical camouflage in more than a trophic level; (2) use stable isotope analysis as a tool to indirectly identify cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) in the diet of insects; (3) review the published studies regarding interactions between lepidopterans and ants that evaluated the chemical strategies mediated by CHCs and propose a standard terminology regarding the chemical strategies and the influence of diet and behavior in the evolutionary-ecological role of the cuticular compounds on insect interactions. Therefore, we hope to unveil how the chemical strategies depend on the diet considering the ecology and evolution of insect interactions in multitrophic systems.

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