Colony insularity through queen control on worker social motivation in ants

Raphaël Boulay, Tamar Katzav-Gozansky, Robert K. Vander Meer, Abraham Hefetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We investigated the relative contribution of the queen and workers to colony nestmate recognition cues and on colony insularity in the Carpenter ant Camponotus fellah. Workers were either individually isolated, preventing contact with both queen and workers (colonial deprived, CD), kept in queenless groups, allowing only worker-worker interactions (queen deprived, QD) or in queenright (QR) groups. Two weeks post-separation QD and QR workers were amicable towards each other but both rejected their CD nestmates, which suggests that the queen does not measurably influence the colony recognition cues. By contrast, aggression between QD and QR workers from the same original colony was apparent only after six months of separation. This clearly demonstrates the power of the Gestalt and indicates that the queen is not a dominant contributor to the nestmate recognition cues in this species. Aggression between nestmates was correlated with a greater hydrocarbon (HC) profile divergence for CD than for QD and QR workers, supporting the importance of worker-worker interactions in maintaining the colony Gestalt odour. While the queen does not significantly influence nestmate recognition cues, she does influence colony insularity since within 3 days QD (queenless for six months) workers from different colony origins merged to form a single queenless colony. By contrast, the corresponding QR colonies maintained their territoriality and did not merge. The originally divergent cuticular and postpharyngeal gland HC profiles became congruent following the merger. Therefore, while workers supply and blend the recognition signal, the queen affects worker-worker interaction by reducing social motivation and tolerance of alien conspecifics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-977
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume270
Issue number1518
DOIs
StatePublished - 7 May 2003

Keywords

  • Colony merging
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Nestmate recognition
  • Queen
  • Social motivation
  • Trophallaxis

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