Alteration of cuticular hydrocarbon composition affects heterospecific nestmate recognition in the carpenter ant Camponotus fellah
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Nestmate recognition is a ubiquitous phenomenon in social insects as a means to prevent entry of undesired individuals aiming at exploiting the rich nest resources. The recognition cues in ants were shown in a few cases to be cuticular hydrocarbons, although there are a quite number of correlated associations. In the present study we modified the cuticular profiles of workers Camponotus fellah hydrocarbons with cuticular washes from a closely related, yet undescribed species, Camponotus sp. Although these sympatric species are morphologically indistinguishable, cuticular washes of C. sp. contain 9,13-dimethylpentacosane and 11,15-dimethylheptacosane that are either absent or occur as traces in C. fellah. In addition, C. sp. contains significantly greater amounts of 3-methylpentacosane than C. fellah workers. The cuticle modification was done solventless in a manner that minimized disruption to the cuticular structure of the ant being modified. Judging from the 3 focal compounds, such treatment added between 20 and 30% of the original amounts present in C. sp. to the treated C. fellah workers. This addition changed consistently the cuticular hydrocarbon profile of the treated ant. Dyadic assays between C. fellah and their nestmates treated with C. sp. cuticular rinses revealed a significantly higher level of aggression compared to non-treated nestmates. There was no aggression between nestmates of C. sp. These results demonstrate that in heterospecific interactions between the two Camponotus species there is a correlation between cuticular hydrocarbons and a nestmate recognition response, albeit not as high as the response of C. fellah to of C. sp. workers. This is consistent with the hypothesis that cuticular hydrocarbons may play a role in nestmate recognition.
KeywordsCuticular hydrocarbons Nestmate recognition Camponotus fellah
This research was supported by The United States-Israel BiNational Science Foundation (Grant n˚ 203367 to Abraham Hefetz & Robert K. Vander Meer). We thank N. Paz for editorial assistance. The experiments comply with the current laws of Israel.
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