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refereed
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Formica fusca ants use aphid supplemented foods to alleviate effects during the acute phase of a fungal infection

ORCID
0000-0003-0941-6486
Affiliation
Institute of Biology, University of Graz, Graz, Styria 8010, Austria; Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, Hanko 10900, Finland
Rissanen, Jason;
Affiliation
Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University, Wageningen 6700, The Netherlands
Nyckees, Danaë;
GND
137978146
ORCID
0000-0001-7985-4292
Affiliation
Julius Kühn Institute (JKI), Institute for Resistance Research and Stress Tolerance, Germany
Will, Torsten;
ORCID
0000-0002-6468-5956
Affiliation
Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, Hanko 10900, Finland; Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu 90014, Finland
Helanterä, Heikki;
ORCID
0000-0001-8574-0531
Affiliation
Institute of Biology, University of Graz, Graz, Styria 8010, Austria; Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, Hanko 10900, Finland
Freitak, Dalial

The modulation of nutritional intake by animals to combat pathogens is a behaviour that is receiving increasing attention. Ant studies using isolated compounds or nutrients in artificial diets have revealed a lot of the dynamics of the behaviour, but natural sources of medicine are yet to be confirmed. Here we explored whether Formica fusca ants exposed to a fungal pathogen can use an artificial diet containing foods spiked with different concentrations of crushed aphids for a medicinal benefit. We show that pathogen exposed colonies adjusted their diet to include more aphid supplemented foods during the acute phase of the infection, reducing the mortality caused by the disease. However, the benefit was only attained when having access to a varied diet, suggesting that while aphids contain nutrients or compounds beneficial against infection, it is a part of a complex nutritional system where costs and benefits of compounds and nutrients need to be moderated.

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License Holder: 2023 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society.

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