Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 9–16 | Cite as

Complex undertaking behavior in Temnothorax lichtensteini ant colonies: from corpse-burying behavior to necrophoric behavior

  • M. Renucci
  • A. Tirard
  • E. Provost
Research Article


Removal of dead bodies is considered an essential act in social behavior. Here we show that in Temnothorax lichtensteini (formerly Leptothorax), the reaction to the presence of a corpse within the nest is more complex than previously hypothesized. Depending on the nature of the corpse, we observe not only necrophoric behavior but also corpse-burying behavior and the alternation of these two behaviors. Alien but newly dead-corpses were buried, while old sister-corpses were transported outside the nest. Numerous other situations studied produce mixed results and contradictory behaviors, indicating behavioral plasticity. Thus, T. lichtensteini workers discriminate alien corpses from nestmate corpses, and old corpses from new corpses. The individual and/or collective characteristics of the behavioral decisions are discussed in the light of our results.


Ants Temnothorax lichtensteini Undertaking behavior Necrophoric behavior Corpse-burying behavior Conflictual decision-making 



We thank M. Sweetko for his help in the preparation of the English text, and Audrey Scala and Alphonse Pecora for technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS, UMR 6116, Aix-Marseille Université, Institut Mediterraneen d’Ecologie et de Paleoecologie (UMR CNRS/IRD), Europôle Méditerranéen de l’ArboisAix en Provence Cedex 04France

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