Myrmecological News – Best Paper Award 2018

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In 2019, Myrmecological News awards for the first time the Best Paper of the previous year. From 7 January to 21 January, the editorial board and the community could vote for their most favourite paper published in 2018.

It is our great pleasure to announce the winner of the certificate of this Best Paper 2018 and the voucher worth the Article Processing Charge (900 EUR) of a future contribution in Myrmecological News:

The ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and their parasites: effects of parasitic manipulations and host responses on ant behavioral ecology” by Charissa de Bekker, Ian Will, Biplabendu Das, and Rachelle M.M. Adams

A View by Charissa de Bekker

Camponotus floridanus attached to Spanish moss moments after the final manipulated biting behavior induced by Ophiocordyceps camponotifloridani (© Charissa de Bekker)

The review article draws attention to an ever-growing array of pathogens known to elicit altered patterns of behavior in ants. Such behavioral modifications appear to span both host-benefiting responses and parasite-driven manipulations. The paper summarizes the literature currently available on the subject, covering parasites from a diverse range of taxa, and often drawing parallels from other host-parasite interactions to suggest potential genetic and physiological bases for the reported behavioral modifications. Having listed out the major examples and reported mechanisms when available, it discusses the current status of our understanding of such behavioral modifications in hosts and identifies critical gaps in our knowledge. The authors, therefore, suggest the need for a more integrative approach required to tackle outstanding questions in the field. This call is meant to serve as a motivation for myrmecologists around the world to initiate further collaborations with parasitologists, neurobiologists, behaviorists, and others to work on these intriguing and enigmatic problems. It is exciting to see multiple studies already set in motion and more are sure to follow.

From left to right: Charissa de Bekker, Biplabendu Das, Ian Will, Rachelle M.M. Adams

Charissa de Bekker, contact author of the Best Paper 2018, is an assistant professor at UCF, where she heads a team dedicated to understanding parasitic behavioral manipulation at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Current research in her lab centers on a fungal parasite, the “zombie ant fungus” (Ophiocordyceps), which manipulates the behavior of its host, Florida carpenter ants (Camponotus floridanus). She takes a broad perspective on the system, shaped by her graduate studies at Utrecht University in biomolecular science and fungal genetics, and post-doctoral research on behavioral ecology and circadian biology at Pennsylvania State and Ludwig-Maximilians-University. Co-authors Biplabendu Das and Ian Will are graduate students in the de Bekker lab. Biplabendu studies ant circadian biology and behavior, which may be key elements in understanding how host life history affects susceptibility to parasitic behavioral modification. Ian focuses on identifying the fungal mechanisms underlying manipulation of ant behavior. In addition to de Bekker lab members, this work was a result of collaboration with Rachelle Adams, who heads her own group at Ohio State. The Adams lab studies topics such as chemical communication, behavior, evolution of venom, and multi-species symbioses, generally through the lens of Megalomyrmex ants that parasitize fungus-growing ants.

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1 Response

  1. Marc "Teleutotje" Van der Stappen says:

    A very good article! Deserves the title!

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