, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 127-132

Larval hemolymph feeding in the ant Leptanilla japonica by use of a specialized duct organ, the “larval hemolymph tap” (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

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Summary

The larvae of the migratory Japanese ant Leptanilla japonica Baroni Urbani have a specialized duct organ on each side of the 4th abdominal segment. Behavioral and histological studies have shown that the adult ants are able to imbibe hemolymph directly from the larval body cavity through these organs, each of which is referred to here as a “larval hemolymph tap.” Laboratory observations further confirm that larval hemolymph feeding (LHF) is the sole source of nutrient for the queens. L. japonica is cyclical in its brood production. All larvae in a colony develop in concert, and when they are mature, the queen performs much active LHF on them. Nourished in this way, she achieves full physogastry within a period of only a few days and then lays a batch of 100–200 eggs. LHF thus facilitates synchronization of brood maturation and concentrated production of eggs by the queen. The larval hemolymph tap has probably evolved de novo in Leptanilla, in relation to cyclical brood production by species with small colony populations. Obviously, the function of this larval organ is non-selfish, contributing to overall colony-level functioning. The larvae of Leptanilla are thus properly qualified as a distinct class of caste in ant societies.