Social prophylaxis: group interaction promotes collective immunity in ant colonies

L.V. Ugelvig, S. Cremer, Current Biology 17 (2007) 1967–1971.

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Journal Article | Published | English
Abstract
Life in a social group increases the risk of disease transmission. To counteract this threat, social insects have evolved manifold antiparasite defenses, ranging from social exclusion of infected group members to intensive care. It is generally assumed that individuals performing hygienic behaviors risk infecting themselves, suggesting a high direct cost of helping. Our work instead indicates the opposite for garden ants. Social contact with individual workers, which were experimentally exposed to a fungal parasite, provided a clear survival benefit to nontreated, naive group members upon later challenge with the same parasite. This first demonstration of contact immunity in Social Hymenoptera and complementary results from other animal groups and plants suggest its general importance in both antiparasite and antiherbivore defense. In addition to this physiological prophylaxis of adult ants, infection of the brood was prevented in our experiment by behavioral changes of treated and naive workers. Parasite-treated ants stayed away from the brood chamber, whereas their naive nestmates increased brood-care activities. Our findings reveal a direct benefit for individuals to perform hygienic behaviors toward others, and this might explain the widely observed maintenance of social cohesion under parasite attack in insect societies.
Publishing Year
Date Published
2007-11-20
Journal Title
Current Biology
Volume
17
Issue
22
Page
1967 - 1971
IST-REx-ID

Cite this

Ugelvig LV, Cremer S. Social prophylaxis: group interaction promotes collective immunity in ant colonies. Current Biology. 2007;17(22):1967-1971. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.10.029
Ugelvig, L. V., & Cremer, S. (2007). Social prophylaxis: group interaction promotes collective immunity in ant colonies. Current Biology, 17(22), 1967–1971. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2007.10.029
Ugelvig, Line V, and Sylvia Cremer. “Social Prophylaxis: Group Interaction Promotes Collective Immunity in Ant Colonies.” Current Biology 17, no. 22 (2007): 1967–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2007.10.029.
L. V. Ugelvig and S. Cremer, “Social prophylaxis: group interaction promotes collective immunity in ant colonies,” Current Biology, vol. 17, no. 22, pp. 1967–1971, 2007.
Ugelvig LV, Cremer S. 2007. Social prophylaxis: group interaction promotes collective immunity in ant colonies. Current Biology. 17(22), 1967–1971.
Ugelvig, Line V., and Sylvia Cremer. “Social Prophylaxis: Group Interaction Promotes Collective Immunity in Ant Colonies.” Current Biology, vol. 17, no. 22, Cell Press, 2007, pp. 1967–71, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.10.029.

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