Interference of epicuticular wax from leaves of grasses in selection and preparation of substrate for cultivation of symbiont fungus by Atta capiguara (Hym. Formicidae)

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Garcia, Marise G. [UNESP]
Forti, Luiz Carlos [UNESP]
Verza, Sandra S. [UNESP]
Noronha Jr., Newton C. [UNESP]
Nagamoto, Nilson S. [UNESP]

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The selection of plants is one of the stages of foraging behavior, executed by leaf-cutting ants for the cultivation of symbiont fungus. Anatomical, biochemical and physiological characteristics of vegetal species are some of the factors that influence selection of substrate; however, most studies described in the literature refer to leaf-cutting ants. Due to the scarcity of studies on the role of epicuticular waxes of grasses in relation to foraging behavior of monocotyledonous leaf-cutters, we completed three experiments with the ant species Atta capiguara in which we analyzed: the attractiveness or selectivity of leaves of Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane) and/or Hypharrenia rufa (capim jaraguá), with and without epicuticular wax in relation to the worker of this ant species, their processing and elimination in the form of pellets of epicuticular wax from the referred fragments removed by the workers for cultivation of symbiont fungus. We observed that vegetal fragments without wax were those most transported by workers to the inside of the nests; that they processed the fragments equally with as much as without wax, and eliminated, in the form of pellets, wax removed from the same into garbage chambers of the colonies, leading us to conclude that for monocotyledonous leaf-cutters, epicuticular wax from vegetal leaves has great importance in vegetal integrity by being used as substrate, representing a physical barrier to the growth of symbiont fungus.



Atta capiguara, Epicuticular wax, Foraging, Leaf-cutting ant, Preparation of substrate, Selection of substrate, Formicidae, Fungi, Poaceae, Saccharum hybrid cultivar, Saccharum officinarum

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Sociobiology, v. 45, n. 3, p. 937-947, 2005.