Trophallaxis mediates uniformity of colony odor in Cataglyphis iberica ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)

Abdallah Dahbi, Abraham Hefetz, Xim Cerdá, Alain Lenoir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We studied the effect of nestmate separation on trophallaxis in the polydomous ant Cataglyphis iberica. After dividing three colonies into two equivalent subgroups, one queenright and one queenless, we quantified the frequency of trophallaxis within each subgroup, between the workers from the two subgroups ('mixed' trophallaxis), and trophallaxis involving the queen. Observations of trophallaxis were conducted over four periods of time: for 2 weeks before the separation of the two subgroups, 8 weeks during separation, immediately after reunification, and 3 weeks following reunification. Subgroups were identically fed on the eve of each day of observation. Group separation induced an increase in 'mixed' frequencies of trophallaxis just after reunification, after which trophallaxis returned to the initial level observed before separation. Previous results showed that group separation in C. iberica induces hydrocarbon profile divergence and that reunification restores this chemical modification. The current results seem to indicate that increased trophallaxis permits a uniform odor to be reestablished among previously separated ants. Trophallaxis involving the queen is infrequent and does not seem to be crucial in the process of odor exchange. Our data confirm that trophallaxis plays a key role in establishing the 'Gestalt' colony odor, particularly among naturally separated satellite nests in a polydomous species like C. iberica.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-567
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


  • 'Gestalt' colony odor
  • Formicidae
  • Polydomy
  • Trophallaxis


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