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Bactericidal and Fungicidal Activity of Ant Chemicals on Feather Parasites: An Evaluation of Anting Behavior as a Method of Self-Medication in Songbirds

Hannah C. Revis and Deborah A. Waller
The Auk
Vol. 121, No. 4 (Oct., 2004), pp. 1262-1268
DOI: 10.2307/4090493
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4090493
Page Count: 7
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Bactericidal and Fungicidal Activity of Ant Chemicals on Feather Parasites: An Evaluation of Anting Behavior as a Method of Self-Medication in Songbirds
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Abstract

Songbirds apply ants to their feathers during anting behavior, possibly as a method of reducing feather parasites. We tested polar and nonpolar ant secretions and pure formic acid for bactericidal and fungicidal effects on microbial ectoparasites of feathers. Microbial inhibition trials were run with the bacteria Bacillus licheniformis (strains OWU 138B and OWU 1432B) and B. subtilis; and with the fungi Chaetomium globosum, Penicillium chrysogenum, and Trichoderma viride. Ant chemicals were derived from Camponotus pennsylvanicus, Pheidole dentata, Aphaenogaster rudis, Crematogaster lineolata, and Lasius flavus worker-caste ants. Although pure formic acid strongly inhibited all bacteria and fungal hyphae tested, concentrations of formic acid found in the bodies of formicine ants did not. Neither hexane ant-chemical extracts nor ant suspensions in deionized water inhibited the microbial species. Consequently, the hypothesis that birds apply ants to control feather parasites was not supported. /// Las aves paserinas aplican hormigas a sus plumas en el comportamiento de hormigueo, posiblemente como un método para reducir la carga parasitaria de las plumas. En este estudio probamos la capacidad bactericida y fungicida de secreciones polares y no polares de hormigas y formas puras de ácido fórmico sobre ectoparásitos microbianos de plumas. Las pruebas de inhibición bacteriana fueron realizadas con Bacillus licheniformis (cepas OWU 138B y OWU 1432B) y B. subtilis, y con los hongos Chaetomium globosum, Penicillium chrysogenum y Trichoderma viride. Los químicos de hormigas fueron derivados de las castas obreras de las especies Camponotus pennsylvanicus, Pheidole dentata, Aphaenogaster rudis, Crematogaster lineolata y Lasius flavus. A pesar de que las formas puras de ácido fórmico inhibieron fuertemente a todas las bacterias e hifas micóticas probadas, las concentraciones de ácido fórmico encontradas en los cuerpos de las hormigas de la subfamilia Formicinae no lo hicieron. Los extractos químicos de hexanos de hormigas y hormigas suspendidas en agua deionizadas tampoco inhibieron a las especies de microbios. Consecuentemente, la hipótesis de que las aves se aplican hormigas para controlar los parásitos de las plumas no fue apoyada.

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