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Example:10.1021/acsami.1c06204 or Chem. Rev., 2007, 107, 2411-2502
Interspecific attraction between ground-nesting songbirds and ants: the role of nest-site selection
Frontiers in Zoology  (IF3.172),  Pub Date : 2021-09-10, DOI: 10.1186/s12983-021-00429-6
Maziarz, Marta, Broughton, Richard K., Casacci, Luca Pietro, Hebda, Grzegorz, Maák, István, Trigos-Peral, Gema, Witek, Magdalena

Interspecific interactions within ecological networks can influence animal fitness and behaviour, including nest-site selection of birds and ants. Previous studies revealed that nesting birds and ants may benefit from cohabitation, with interspecific attraction through their nest-site choice, but mutual interactions have not yet been tested. We explored a previously undescribed ecological link between ground-nesting birds and ants raising their own broods (larvae and pupae) within the birds’ nests in a temperate primeval forest of lowland Europe. We tested whether the occurrence of ant broods within bird nests resulted from a mutual or one-sided interspecific attraction that operated through nest-site choice and was modified by weather conditions. We found a non-random occupation of bird nests by ants raising their own broods within them, which indicated interspecific attraction driven solely by the ants. The birds’ preference to nest near tussocks of vegetation showed little overlap with the most frequent placement of ant colonies among fallen deciduous tree-leaves, dead wood and moss. Additionally, birds did not appear to select forest localities with high densities of ant colonies. The occurrence of ant broods within bird nests was also unrelated to bird nest placement near to specific habitat features. The attractiveness of bird nests to ants appeared to increase with the thermal activity of the birds warming their nests, and also during cool and wet weather when the occurrence of ant broods within bird nests was most frequent. Ants often remained in the nests after the birds had vacated them, with only a slight reduction in the probability of ant brood occurrence over time. The natural patterns of bird nest colonisation by ants support the hypothesis of ants’ attraction to warm nests of birds to raise their broods under advantageous thermal conditions. Similar relationships may occur between other warm-blooded, nest-building vertebrates and nest-dwelling invertebrates, which depend on ambient temperatures. The findings advance our understanding of these poorly recognised interspecific interactions, and can inform future studies of ecological networks.