Camponotus fellah colony integration: Worker individuality necessitates frequent hydrocarbon exchanges

Raphael Boulay, Abraham Hefetz, Victoria Soroker, Alain Lenoir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our aim was to test the existence of Gestalt colony odour in Camponotus fellah. We isolated individual workers to prevent trophallaxis, allogrooming and body contact. After 20 days, the cuticular hydrocarbon profile of the isolated ants diverged from that of the parent colony. Moreover, each isolated individual had its own specific blend. This procedure showed that after about 20 days of isolation there was a turnover of the colony odour, revealing the genetically expressed hydrocarbon profile of each individual. It also showed that the cuticular hydrocarbon profile is polymorphic, and that its homogeneity within a colony is maintained by frequent exchanges of hydrocarbons between workers. Behavioural observations of resident workers, in their nest, towards nestmates reintroduced after isolation indicated that a short isolation period (3-5 days), which induced a minor change in hydrocarbon profile, provoked frequent trophallactic solicitations. These were likely to permit the isolated ants to readjust their hydrocarbon profile to that of the ants in the mother colony. Longer isolation periods (20-40 days) induced a greater change in hydrocarbon profile and made the residents intolerant towards their introduced nestmates. Therefore, our results clearly support the existence of a Gestalt colony odour in C. fellah. They also show that since individual hydrocarbon production is dynamic, workers are obliged to exchange hydrocarbons continually (mainly by trophallaxis) in order to be in the Gestalt, and properly integrate into the colony. (C) 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1127-1133
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000


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