Original Paper


, Volume 97, Issue 2, pp 202-208

First online:

Territory defense by the ant Azteca trigona: maintenance of an arboreal ant mosaic

  • Eldridge S. AdamsAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of CaliforniaSmithsomian Tropical Research Institute

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Mosaics of exclusive foraging territories, produced by intra-and interspecific competition, are commonly reported from arboreal ant communities throughout the tropics and appear to represent a recurring feature of community organization. This paper documents an ant mosaic within mangrove forests of Panama and examines the behavioral mechanisms by which one of the common species, Azteca trigona, maintains its territories. Most of the mangrove canopy is occupied by mutually exclusive territories of the ants A. trigona, A. velox, A. instabilis, and Crematogaster brevispinosa. When foraging workers of A. trigona detect workers of these territorial species, they organize an alarm recruitment response using pheromonal and tactile displays. Nestmates are attracted over short distances by an alarm pheromone originating in the pygidial gland and over longer distances by a trail pheromone produced by the Pavan's gland. Recruits are simultaneously alerted by a tactile display. No evidence was found for chemical marking of the territory. Major workers are proportionally more abundant at territory borders than on foraging trails in the interior of the colony. The mechanisms of territory defense in A. trigona are remarkably similar to those of ecologically analogous ants in the Old World tropics.

Key words

Ants Territoriality Azteca Pheromones