Article

Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 7, pp 1667-1683

Metapleural Gland Secretion of the Leaf-cutter Ant Acromyrmex octospinosus: New Compounds and Their Functional Significance

  • Diethe Ortius-LechnerAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Genetics, University of Aarhus, Ny Munkegade
  • , Roland MaileAffiliated withChemical Ecology Group, School of Chemistry and Physics, Keele
  • , E. David MorganAffiliated withChemical Ecology Group, School of Chemistry and Physics, Keele
  • , Jacobus J. BoomsmaAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Genetics, University of Aarhus, Ny Munkegade

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Abstract

Ants of the myrmicine tribe Attini live in symbiosis with a fungus that provides them with food. In return the ants maintain optimal growth conditions for the fungus, weed out competing microorganisms, and inhibit the growth conditions of these competitors by chemical means. We present a comprehensive analysis of metapleural gland secretions of Acromyrmex octospinosus, using a recently developed method for the analysis of polar compounds by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. We show that the chemical identity and quantitative recovery of different compounds in the metapleural gland secretion depends upon the method used and the type of colony from which the samples are taken. In addition to the two compounds previously recorded in the metapleural gland secretion of Acromyrmex ants (indolacetic acid and myrmicacin), 20 new compounds were detected in the secretion of a random sample of workers from two laboratory colonies and two field colonies. These compounds span the whole range of carboxylic acids from acetic acid to the long-chain fatty acids but comprise also some alcohols, lactones, and keto acids. The possible function of this highly complex secretion mixture is discussed.

Formicidae leaf-cutter ants Acromyrmex octospinosus gas chromatography mass spectrometry metapleural gland carboxylic and fatty acids lactones keto acids antibiotics