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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGY, GENOMICS, AND INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT OF INVASIVE ANTS

Location: Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects

Title: Alteration of cuticular hydrocarbon composition affects heterospecific nestmate recognition in the carpenter ant Camponotus fellah

Authors
item Lalzar, I -
item Simon, T -
item Vander Meer, Robert
item Hefetz, Abraham -

Submitted to: Chemoecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 19, 2009
Publication Date: December 5, 2009
Citation: Lalzar, I., Simon, T., Vander Meer, R.K., Hefetz, A. 2010. Alteration of cuticular hydrocarbon composition affects heterospecific nestmate recognition in the carpenter ant Camponotus fellah. Chemoecology. 20:19-24.

Interpretive Summary: Nestmate recognition is a ubiquitous phenomenon in social insects as a means to maintain territoriality and colony integrity. The recognition cues in ants were shown in a few cases to be cuticular hydrocarbons. Understanding the cues involved will lead to insight into nestmate recognition and sociality. Scientists at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA, ARS, Gainesville, FL, and Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Te Aviv, Israel, have demonstrated a correlation between cuticular hydrocarbons and heterospecific interactions between two cryptic Camponotus ant species. These results support the hypothesis that cuticular hydrocarbons may play a role in heterospecific-nestmate recognition. This is an important addition to our knowledge of the chemical cues used in ant nestmate recognition.

Technical Abstract: Nestmate recognition is a ubiquitous phenomenon in social insects as a means to prevent entry of undesired individuals aiming at exploiting the rich nest resources. The recognition cues in ants were shown in a few cases to be cuticular hydrocarbons, although there are a quite number of correlated associations. In the present study we modified the cuticular profiles of workers Camponotus fellah hydrocarbons with cuticular washes from a closely related, yet undescribed species, Camponotus sp. Although these sympatric species are morphologically indistinguishable, cuticular washes of C. sp. contain 9,13-dimethylpentacosane and 11,15-dimethylheptacosane that are either absent or occur as traces in C. fellah. In addition, C. sp. contains significantly greater amounts of 3-methylpentacosane than C. fellah workers. The cuticle modification was done solventless in a manner that minimized disruption to the cuticular structure of the ant being modified. Judging from the 3 focal compounds, such treatment added between 20 and 30% of the original amounts present in C. sp. to the treated C. fellah workers. This addition changed consistently the cuticular hydrocarbon profile of the treated ant. Dyadic assays between C. fellah and their nestmates treated with C. sp. cuticular rinses revealed a significantly higher level of aggression compared to non-treated nestmates. There was no aggression between nestmates of C. sp. These results demonstrate that in heterospecific interactions between the two Camponotus species there is a correlation between cuticular hydrocarbons and a nestmate recognition response, albeit not as high as the response of C. fellah to of C. sp. workers. This is consistent with the hypothesis that cuticular hydrocarbons may play a role in nestmate recognition.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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