Eur. J. Entomol. 114: 565-586, 2017 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2017.071

Detailed morphological descriptions of the immature stages of the ant parasite Microdon mutabilis (Diptera: Syrphidae: Microdontinae) and a discussion of its functional morphology, behaviour and host specificity

Giulia SCARPARO1,3, Pierfilippo CERRETTI2, Maurizio MEI2, Andrea DI GIULIO1,3,*
1 Department of Science, University of Roma Tre, Viale Guglielmo Marconi 446, 00146 Rome, Italy; e-mails: giulia.scarparo@uniroma3.it, andrea.digiulio@uniroma3.it
2 Department of Biology and Biotechnology "Charles Darwin", University of Rome "Sapienza", Piazzale Valerio Massimo 6, 00162 Rome, Italy; e-mails: pierfilippo.cerretti@uniroma1.it, maurizio.mei@uniroma1.it
3 Laboratorio Interdipartimentale di Microscopia Elettronica (L.I.M.E), University of Roma Tre

The myrmecophilous immature stages of hover flies of the genus Microdon Meigen, 1803 (Diptera, Syrphidae) are still poorly known and only about 15 species were previously incompletely described and/or illustrated using light microscopy based on occasional findings mainly of pupae and third instar larvae. The exceptional finding of a large number of second and third instar larvae and pupae (159 specimens) of Microdon mutabilis (Linnaeus, 1758) inside the nest of a new host species, Formica cunicularia Latreille,1798, enabled us to rear them and obtain a great number of eggs and first instar larvae. We filmed and described the feeding behaviour and locomotion of these highly derived slug-like larvae. Combining light, fluorescence and scanning electron (SEM) microscopy, we describe in detail and illustrate the external features of all the immature stages of M. mutabilis (eggs, larvae and pupae). Covering the entire chorion of the egg is a peculiar microsculpture composed of volcano-like processes. The three larval instars strongly differ from each other, especially at the level of the shape of the body, the posterior spiracular tubercle and the cephaloskeleton. SEM microscopy was used to describe in detail the microsculpture, sensorial structures, spiracles and cephalic appendages of larvae and pupae. Fluorescence microscopy was used to reveal the exceptional presence of resilin in the external layer of the posterior spiracular tubercle in first instar larvae. The possible functional significance of these structures is discussed.

Keywords: Diptera, Syrphidae, Microdon mutabilis, development, fly-ant interactions, Formica cunicularia, immature stages, larval behaviour, myrmecophily, scanning electron microscopy

Received: August 2, 2017; Accepted: November 11, 2017; Published online: December 15, 2017Show citation

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SCARPARO, G., CERRETTI, P., MEI, M., & DI GIULIO, A. (2017). Detailed morphological descriptions of the immature stages of the ant parasite Microdon mutabilis (Diptera: Syrphidae: Microdontinae) and a discussion of its functional morphology, behaviour and host specificity. Eur. J. Entomol.114(1), 2017.000. doi: 10.14411/eje.2017.071.
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