Advertisement

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgments

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

References

  1. Anderson C. 2001. Individual versus social complexity, with particular reference to ant colonies. Biol. Rev. Cambridge Phil. Soc. 76: 211-237Google Scholar
  2. André E. 1885. Les Fourmis. Hachette, Paris. 345 ppGoogle Scholar
  3. Ataya H. 1980. Le comportement nécrophorique et la division du travail chez la fourmi Lasius niger (L.) PhD Université François Rabelais, Tours, 196 ppGoogle Scholar
  4. Ataya H. and Lenoir A. 1984. Le comportement nécrophorique chez la fourmi Lasius niger L. Insect. Soc. 31: 20-33Google Scholar
  5. Blum M.S. 1970. The chemical basis of insect sociality. In: Chemicals controlling Insect Behavior (Morton Beroza, Ed), Academic Press, New York. pp 61-94Google Scholar
  6. Choe D.-H., Millar J.G. and Rust M.K. 2009. Chemical signals associated with life inhibit necrophoresis in Argentine ants. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 106: 8251-8255Google Scholar
  7. Chouvenc T. 2003. Corpse burial behavior of the growing fungus termite, Pseudacanthotermes spiniger (Termitidae, Macrotermitidae): necrophoric behavior and its induction. PhD, University of Burgundy, Dijon, FranceGoogle Scholar
  8. Chouvenc T., Robert A., Sémon E. and Bordereau C. 2004. L’enterrement des cadavres chez le termite champignonniste Pseudocanthotermes spiniger (Termitidae, Macrotermitinae): analyse du comportement nécrophorique et de son induction. Actes Coll. Insect. Soc. 16: 16-20Google Scholar
  9. Crosland M.W.J. and Traniello J.F.A. 1997. Behavioral plasticity in division of labor in the lower termite Reticulitermes fukienensis. Naturwissenschaften 84: 208-211Google Scholar
  10. Du Buysson R. 1903. Monographie des guêpes ou Vespa. Ann. Soc. Ent. Fr. 72: 260-288Google Scholar
  11. Franks N.R., Hooper J., Webb C. and Dornhaus A. 2005. Tomb evaders: house-hunting hygiene in ants. Biol. Lett. 1: 190-192Google Scholar
  12. Gordon D.M. 1983. Dependence of necrophoric response to oleic acid on social context in the ant, Pogonomyrmex badius. J. Chem. Ecol. 9: 105-111Google Scholar
  13. Gordon D.M. and Mehdiabadi N.J. 1999. Encounter rate and task allocation in harvester ants. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 45: 370-377Google Scholar
  14. Grassé P-P. 1959. La reconstruction du nid et les coordinations inter-individuelles chez Bellicositermes natalensis et Cubitermes sp. La théorie de la Stigmergie: essai d’interprétation du comportement des termites constructeurs. Insect. Soc. 6: 41-81Google Scholar
  15. Haskins C.P. and Haskins E.F. 1974. Notes on necrophoric behavior in the archaic ant Myrmecia vindex (Formicidae: Myrmeciinae). Psyche 81: 258-267Google Scholar
  16. Hölldobler B. and Wilson E.O. 1990. The Ants. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 732 ppGoogle Scholar
  17. Holland O. and Melhuish C. 1999. Stigmergy, self-organization, and sorting in collective robotics. Artificial Life 5: 173-202Google Scholar
  18. Howard D.F. and Tschinkel W.R. 1976. Aspects of necrophoric behavior in the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Behaviour 56: 157-180Google Scholar
  19. Julian G.E. and Cahan S. 1999. Undertaking specialization in the desert leaf-cutter ant Acromyrmex versicolor. Anim. Behav. 58: 437-442Google Scholar
  20. Legakis A. 1979. Aspects of chemical communication in Pharaonis ant, Monomorium pharaonis (L.) PhD University of Southampton. 199 ppGoogle Scholar
  21. Lopez-Riquelme G.O., Malo E.A., Cruz-Lopez L. and Fanjul-Moles M.L. 2006. Antennal olfactory sensitivity in response to task-related odours of three castes of the ant Atta mexicana (Hymenoptera: formicidae). Physiol. Entomol. 31: 353-360Google Scholar
  22. Mallon E.B., Pratt S.C. and Franks N.R. 2001. Individual and collective decision-making during nest site selection by the ant Temnothorax albipennis. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 50: 352-359Google Scholar
  23. Moser J.C. 1963. Contents and structure of Atta texana nests in summer. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 56: 286-291Google Scholar
  24. Oi D.H. and Pereira R.M. 1993. Ant behavior and microbial pathogens (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Florida Entomol. 76: 63-74Google Scholar
  25. Ozaki M., Wada-Katsumata A., Fujikawa K., Iwasaki M., Yokohari F., Satoji Y., Nisimura T., Yamaoka R. 2005. Ant nestmate and non-nestmate discrimination by a chemosensory sensillum. Science 309: 311-314Google Scholar
  26. Pratt S.C., Mallon E.B., Sumpter D.J.T. and Franks N.R. 2002. Quorum sensing, recruitment, and collective decision-making during colony emigration by the ant Leptothorax albipennis. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 52: 117-127Google Scholar
  27. Provost E. 1989. Social environmental factors influencing mutual recognition of individuals in the ant Leptothorax lichtensteini Bondroit (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Behav. Proc. 18: 35-59Google Scholar
  28. Rettenmeyer C.W. 1963. Behavioral studies of army ants. Univ. Kansas Science Bull. 44: 281-465Google Scholar
  29. Roy-Noël J. 1967. Note sur un comportement particulier vis-à-vis des morts chez Coptotermes intermedius silvestri (Isoptère rhinothermitidae). Insect. Soc. 14: 349-350Google Scholar
  30. Schwartz D. 1963. Méthodes Statistiques à l’Usage des Médecins et des Biologistes 4ème edition. Médecin-Sciences Flammarion Editors, Paris. 314 ppGoogle Scholar
  31. Seeley T.D. and Visscher P.K. 2004. Group decision making in nest-site selection by honey bees, Apidologie 35: 101-116Google Scholar
  32. Su N.Y. 1982. An ethological approach to the remedial control of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Hawaii HonoluluGoogle Scholar
  33. Trumbo S.T. and Robinson G.E. 1997. Learning and task interference by corpse-removal specialists in honey bee colonies. Ethology 103: 966-975Google Scholar
  34. Visscher P.K. 1983. The honey bee way of death : necrophoric behavior in Apis mellifera. Anim. Behav. 31: 1070-1076Google Scholar
  35. Wilson E.O. 1958. A chemical releaser of alarm and digging behavior in the ant Pogonomyrmex badius (Latreille). Psyche 65: 41-50Google Scholar
  36. Wilson E.O., Durlach N.I. and Roth L.M. 1958. Chemical releasers of necrophoric behavior in ants. Psyché 65: 108-114Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations