Hydrocarbon dynamics within and between nestmates in Cataglyphis niger (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Victoria Soroker, Catherine Vienne, Abraham Hefetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objective of the present study was to evaluate the interrelationship between the cuticular and postpharyngeal glands' hydrocarbons, both in the individual ant and during its interaction with nestmates. In vivo radiochemical assays were employed to monitor the de novo hydrocarbon biosynthesis from acetate in the ant's body. The newly synthesized hydrocarbons appeared first internally and after 24 hr they accumulated in the postpharyngeal gland and on the cuticular surface. Blocking the possibility of external transfer of hydrocarbons between cuticle and postpharyngeal gland led to a significant decrease of labeled hydrocarbons in the postpharyngeal gland. In addition, during encounters between labeled and unlabeled ants, newly synthesized hydrocarbons were transferred, mainly via trophallaxis, but also by allo-grooming and physical contact. In view of these results, we propose as a model for their dynamics that hydrocarbons are synthesized in tissues associated with the integument. Through self-grooming, there is a constant exchange of hydrocarbons between the cuticular surface and the postpharyngeal gland. Furthermore, in encounters between nestmates, hydrocarbons are exchanged among them mostly by trophallaxis, with the mediation of the postpharyngeal gland. Thus, this gland acts as a pool for mixing colonial hydrocarbons and may serve to attain a unified colony odor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-378
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1995


  • Cataglyphis niger
  • Postpharyngeal glands
  • ants
  • cuticle
  • hydrocarbons
  • nestmates recognition


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