Chemical camouflage : a frog's strategy to co-exist with aggressive ants

  • Whereas interspecific associations receive considerable attention in evolutionary, behavioural and ecological literature, the proximate bases for these associations are usually unknown. This in particular applies to associations between vertebrates with invertebrates. The West-African savanna frog Phrynomantis microps lives in the underground nest of ponerine ants (Paltothyreus tarsatus). The ants usually react highly aggressively when disturbed by fiercely stinging, but the frog is not attacked and lives unharmed among the ants. Herein we examined the proximate mechanisms for this unusual association. Experiments with termites and mealworms covered with the skin secretion of the frog revealed that specific chemical compounds seem to prevent the ants from stinging. By HPLC-fractionation of an aqueous solution of the frogs' skin secretion, two peptides of 1,029 and 1,143 Da were isolated and found to inhibit the aggressive behaviour of the ants. By de novo sequencing using tandem mass spectrometry, the amino acid sequence of both peptides consisting of a chain of 9 and 11 residues, respectively, was elucidated. Both peptides were synthesized and tested, and exhibited the same inhibitory properties as the original frog secretions. These novel peptides most likely act as an appeasement allomone and may serve as models for taming insect aggression.

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Author:Mark-Oliver Rödel, Christian Brede, Mareike Hirschfeld, Thomas Schmitt, Philippe Favreau, Reto Stöcklin, Cora WunderORCiDGND, Dietrich Mebs
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):PLoS One
Place of publication:Lawrence, Kan.
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2013/12/11
Date of first Publication:2013/12/11
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2014/01/29
Issue:(12): e81950
Page Number:7
Copyright: © 2013 Rödel et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 59 Tiere (Zoologie) / 590 Tiere (Zoologie)
Sammlung Biologie / Sondersammelgebiets-Volltexte
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0