Hydrocarbon distribution and colony odour homogenisation in Pachycondyla apicalis
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Within and between individuals hydrocarbon (HC)-circulation was studied in Pachycondyla apicalis workers, using radioactive labeling. Newly synthesized HCs occurred both in the PPG and on the epicuticle in appreciable amounts, lesser quantities were found in the crop. The front basitarsal brush contained a greater amount of radiolabeled HCs than could be predicted from its surface area, suggesting preferential secretion to these organs. We propose that the newly synthesized HCs are secreted primarily to the front basitarsal brushes and are thereafter either distributed throughout the body surface, or cleared via the PPG and the alimentary canal.
Using labeled HCs as a model, we tracked the time-dependent dispersion of cuticular lipids among 11 workers, one of which was prelabeled for 24 hours. Distribution among the recipients became progressively uniform, reaching near homogenization between 5–10 days. The mean HCs transfer of P. apicalis to the PPG was substantially lower compared to that of Camponotus fellah or Aphaenogaster senilis. In contrast, transfer to the cuticle in this species was superior. We attribute the low transfer to the PPG to the inefficacy of passive body contact characteristic of P. apicalis, as opposed to trophallaxis and/or allogrooming that typify the other two species. The higher occurrence of radiolabeled HCs in P. apicalis cuticle can be attributed to their accumulation in the basitarsal brushes. The impact of cuticular lipid transfer and formation of uniform colony odour, as opposed to the maintenance of an idiosyncratic caste-specific composition, are discussed.
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