Innate aversion to ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and ant mimics: experimental findings from mantises (Mantodea)
Field data suggest that ants may be important predators of mantises which, in turn, may be important predators of jumping spiders (Salticidae). Using a tropical fauna from the Philippines as a case study, the reactions of mantises to ants, myrmecomorphic salticids (i.e. jumping spiders that resemble ants) and ordinary salticids (i.e. jumping spiders that do not resemble ants) were investigated in the laboratory. Three mantis species (Loxomantis sp., Orthodera sp., and Statilia sp.) were tested with ten ant species, five species of Myrmarachne (i.e. myrmecomorphic salticids), and 23 ordinary salticid species. Two categories of the myrmecomorphic salticids were recognized: (1) 'typical Myrmarachne' (four species with a strong resemblance to ants) and (2) Myrmarachne bakeri (a species with less strong resemblance to ants). Ants readily killed mantises in the laboratory, confirming that, for the mantises studied, ants are dangerous. In alternate-day testing, the mantises routinely preyed on the ordinary salticids, but avoided ants. The mantises reacted to myrmecomorphic salticids similarly to how they reacted to ants (i.e. myrmecomorphic salticids appear to be, for mantises, Batesian mimics of ants). Although myrmecomorphic salticids were rarely eaten, M. bakeri was eaten more often than typical Myrmarachne. Because the mantises had no prior experience with ants, ant mimics or ordinary salticids, our findings suggest that mantises have an innate aversion to attacking ants and that this aversion is generalized to myrmecomorphic salticids even in the absence of prior experience with ants. © 2006 The Linnean Society of London.