Robert Perger https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9930-9638
Date of this Version
Perger R. 2021. First reports of species-specific ant resemblance in heteronotine treehoppers (Hemiptera: Membracidae: Heteronotinae). Insecta Mundi 0888: 1–6.
Species-specific ant resemblance in heteronotine membracids (Hemiptera: Membracidae) is reported for the first time, providing evidence for ant mimicry. The shape, integument color and shine of the pronotal process of females of Heteronotus fabulosus Boulard closely resemble workers of the co-occurring giant turtle ant Cephalotes atratus (Linnaeus) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). The entire membracid appears to mimic a mutualistic relationship between a membracid and a turtle ant.
The treehopper family Membracidae Rafinesque, 1815 is famous among entomologists for their mutualistic relationships with hymenopterans (Way 1963) and high morphological diversity of their pronotum, often consisting of brightly colored and/or curiously shaped structures such as horns, spines, and/or nodes (Evangelista et al. 2016). The Neotropical treehopper subfamily Heteronotinae Goding, 1926 contains the most remarkable treehoppers with regard to the diversity of pronotal morphology (Evangelista et al. 2016). The high variation in pronotal shape in this subfamily is likely associated with different evolutionary strategies of mimicry, camouflage and/or defense against predators (Poulton 1903; Boulard 1983). One of the two clades that was recovered by a phylogenetic analysis of the heteronotine genus Heteronotus Laporte, 1832, is assumed to include mimics of a variety of arboreal ants (Evangelista et al. 2016). However, due to lack of field observations and experimental evidence, potential ant models and ant mimicry still remain hypothetical (Evangelista et al. 2016). In this contribution, species-specific ant resemblance is reported in heteronotine treehoppers for the first time.