A comparative analysis of rapid antennation behavior in four species of Odontomachus trap-jaw ants
The exchange of rapid antennal strikes between individuals is a behavior exhibited by many social hymenopterans, largely in dominance contexts within the nest and in aggressive contexts towards non-nestmates. Despite being widely reported, the behavior itself has not been well described or compared between species for the majority of social insect groups. We first document how often rapid antennation is used as an aggressive response to non-nestmates for four species of Odontomachus ants. We then use high-speed videography to measure the rate of rapid antennation behavior for these species. We find that rates are neither conserved nor species-specific and average between 19.5 and 41.5 strikes/s. Next, with O. brunneus, we compare this behavior as it is performed between nestmates and non-nestmates. We find no context-specific differences in rate, bout length, or number of strikes. We conclude by discussing the evolution of this behavior and its potential utility as a model for understanding aggressive behaviors both inside and outside of the nest.