The Ant and the Butterfly

Sci. Signal.  08 Jan 2008:
Vol. 1, Issue 1, pp. ec11
DOI: 10.1126/stke.11ec11

Complex channels of chemical communication affect both the ecology and evolution of interactions among species. In Denmark, the Alcon blue butterfly larvae are adopted by ants of the genus Myrmica, which raise them preferentially to their own young. Nash et al. show that similarity in host and parasite surface chemistry explains a significant proportion of the variation in virulence of the parasite. Patterns of host cuticular chemistry are consistent with an ongoing coevolutionary arms race with one of its host ants (Myrmica rubra) but not with an alternative host (Myrmica ruginodis).

D. R. Nash, T. D. Als, R. Maile, G. R. Jones, J. J. Boomsma, A mosaic of chemical coevolution in a large blue butterfly. Science 319, 88-90 (2008). [Abstract] [Full Text]