Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 637–646 | Cite as

Morphology and ultrastructure of the infrabuccal pocket in Camponotus japonicus Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

  • C. Wang
  • J. Billen
  • C. Wei
  • H. HeEmail author
Research Article


The infrabuccal pocket (IBP) is a peculiar structure in ants whose detailed morphology and function still remain poorly known in most species, despite first being described more than a century ago. This paper describes the morphology of the IBP in Camponotus japonicus using light and electron microscopy. The IBP occurs in workers, queens and males, with similar anatomical characteristics in each caste. The size and shape of the IBP are changeable depending on the degree it is filled due to a daily pattern of pellet ejecting. Dissection data show that the IBP is usually empty in the morning and full by mid-day. The long ornamented hairs covering the inner wall of the prepharynx and the anterior part of the IBP form an effective filtering system for solid particles. The pocket wall thickens posteriorly, possibly providing special bending and stretching properties. The cuticle-lined epithelium around the entire pocket is formed by a uniform cell layer without glandular function, but also giving it mechanical strength. The structural features as described are in agreement with the need for filtering solid particles that form part of the diet of this ant species.


Camponotus ants Infrabuccal pocket Mouthparts Food filtration Microscopy 



We express our thanks to An Vandoren (KU Leuven) for making the microscopy sections for this study and to Zhang Guoyun (Northwest A&F University) for the SEM observations. We are grateful to our students Lili Chang and Wenjing Xu for their help in dissecting ants and photography. Two anonymous reviewers provided very valuable comments and suggestions for improvement of the manuscript. This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant nos. 31070342 and 31570388), Forestry Industry Research Special Funds for Public Welfare Projects (Grant no. 201404302-4), the International Science and Technology Cooperation Project of Northwest A&F University (2018) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. 2452019174).


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of State Forestry Administration on Management of Forest Bio-Disaster, College of ForestryNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.Zoological InstituteKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Plant Protection Resources and Pest Management, Ministry of Education, College of Plant ProtectionNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina

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