Genetic Distance and Age Affect the Cuticular Chemical Profiles of the Clonal Ant Cerapachys biroi

Serafino Teseo*, Emmanuel Lecoutey, Daniel J.C. Kronauer, Abraham Hefetz, Alain Lenoir, Pierre Jaisson, Nicolas Châline

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) have received much attention from biologists because of their important role in insect communication, few studies have addressed the chemical ecology of clonal species of eusocial insects. In this study we investigated whether and how differences in CHCs relate to the genetics and reproductive dynamics of the parthenogenetic ant Cerapachys biroi. We collected individuals of different ages and subcastes from several colonies belonging to four clonal lineages, and analyzed their cuticular chemical signature. CHCs varied according to colonies and clonal lineages in two independent data sets, and correlations were found between genetic and chemical distances between colonies. This supports the results of previous research showing that C. biroi workers discriminate between nestmates and non-nestmates, especially when they belong to different clonal lineages. In C. biroi, the production of individuals of a morphological subcaste specialized in reproduction is inversely proportional to colony-level fertility. As chemical signatures usually correlate with fertility and reproductive activity in social Hymenoptera, we asked whether CHCs could function as fertility-signaling primer pheromones determining larval subcaste fate in C. biroi. Interestingly, and contrary to findings for several other ant species, fertility and reproductive activity showed no correlation with chemical signatures, suggesting the absence of fertility related CHCs. This implies that other cues are responsible for subcaste differentiation in this species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-438
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


FundersFunder number
French Ministry of Research
Harvard Society of Fellows


    • Ants
    • Biological invasions
    • Cerapachys biroi
    • Clonality
    • Cuticular hydrocarbons
    • Fertility signaling
    • Pheromones
    • Social insects


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