Note: Different day than usual: Wednesday "Nestmate recognition and within colony discrimination in ants"

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Seminar WEDNESDAY 12th February 2003, at Department of Population Ecology
Note: Different day than usual: Wednesday
"Nestmate recognition and within colony discrimination in ants"
Patrizia d’Ettore

University of Regensburg, D

Nestmate recognition is at the core of insect societies and is based on chemical cues. It occurs at two levels: intra-colony and inter-colony. Social parasite are able to break the nestmate recognition code of their host. Thus, they represent a suitable model system to study recognition at the inter-colony level. The slave-making ant Polyergus rufescens cannot survive without its host, genus Formica. For colony foundation, the newly mated queen must find and penetrate a Formica colony, kill the resident queen and be adopted by the host workers. We showed that the Polyergus queen rely on a double chemical strategy to successfully usurp a host nest: the cuticular chemical insignificance and a repellent produced by the Dufour’s gland. After the adoption into the host colony, the parasitic queen starts to lay eggs and its brood has to be reared by heterospecific workers. Polyergus callows show a flexible cuticular signature allowing them to chemically blend in with the crowd and achieve the social integration into the host colony. Primitive ant societies, with relatively simple social structure, can be used as a model system to study recognition at the intra-colony level. Little odour differences among individuals of the same colony can be the basis to discriminate among different castes, classes of age, social status. Correlative studies have given some evidence that this inter-individual variation is associated with differences in reproductive status. In the ponerine ant, Pachycondyla inversa, fertile queens and, in orphaned colonies, dominant, egg-laying workers, are characterised by the predominance of a branched hydrocarbon (3,11-diMeC27) on the cuticula. Direct proof for this compounds being indeed perceived and recognized by ants was lacking. We showed that workers react to key compound characteritic of the queen, and we are currently testing whether this is a honest signal reflecting the quality of the sender.


WEDNESDAY 12th February, at 15:00

Department of Population Ecology

Build. 12, Kollokvierum 1, 1st floor

Universitetsparken 15

2100 Kbh.Ø

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