Evidence for social parasitism of early insect societies by Cretaceous rove beetles

Shûhei Yamamoto, Munetoshi Maruyama, Joseph Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of eusociality in ants and termites propelled both insect groups to their modern ecological dominance. Yet, eusociality also fostered the evolution of social parasitism - an adverse symbiosis, in which the superorganismal colonies formed by these insects are infiltrated by a profusion of invertebrate species that target nest resources. Predominant among these are the aleocharine rove beetles (Staphylinidae), a vast and ecologically diverse subfamily with numerous morphologically and behaviourally specialized socially parasitic lineages. Here, we report a fossil aleocharine, Mesosymbion compactus gen. et sp. nov., in Burmese amber (∼99 million years old), displaying specialized anatomy that is a hallmark of social parasites. Mesosymbion coexisted in the Burmese palaeofauna with stem-group ants and termites that provide the earliest indications of eusociality in both insect groups. We infer that the advent of eusociality led automatically and unavoidably to selection for social parasitism. The antiquity and adaptive flexibility of aleocharines made them among the first organisms to engage in this type of symbiosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13658
JournalNature communications
Publication statusPublished - Dec 8 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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