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The Association between Virus Prevalence and Intercolonial Aggression Levels in the Yellow Crazy Ant, Anoplolepis Gracilipes (Jerdon)


The recent discovery of multiple viruses in ants, along with the widespread infection of their hosts across geographic ranges, provides an excellent opportunity to test whether viral prevalence in the field is associated with the complexity of social interactions in the ant population. In this study, we examined whether the association exists between the field prevalence of a virus and the intercolonial aggression of its ant host, using the yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) and its natural viral pathogen (TR44839 virus) as a model system. We delimitated the colony boundary and composition of A. gracilipes in a total of 12 study sites in Japan (Okinawa), Taiwan, and Malaysia (Penang), through intercolonial aggression assay. The spatial distribution and prevalence level of the virus was then mapped for each site. The virus occurred at a high prevalence in the surveyed colonies of Okinawa and Taiwan (100% infection rate across all sites), whereas virus prevalence was variable (30%-100%) or none (0%) at the sites in Penang. Coincidentally, colonies in Okinawa and Taiwan displayed a weak intercolonial boundary, as aggression between colonies is generally low or moderate. Contrastingly, sites in Penang were found to harbor a high proportion of mutually aggressive colonies, a pattern potentially indicative of complex colony composition. Our statistical analyses further confirmed the observed correlation, implying that intercolonial interactions likely contribute as one of the effective facilitators of/barriers to virus prevalence in the field population of this ant species.

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