Collective retention and transmission of chemical signals in a social insect
Social insect colonies exhibit highly coordinated responses to ecological challenges by acquiring information that is disseminated throughout the colony. Some responses are coordinated directly from the signals produced by individuals that acquired the information. Other responses may require information to be transferred indirectly through a third party, thereby requiring colony-wide retention of information. Social insects use colony signature odours to distinguish between nestmates and non-nestmates, and the level of aggression between non-nestmates typically varies according to the distance between colonies and thus their history of interactions. Such coordinated, colony-specific responses may require information about particular odours to be disseminated and retained across the colony. Our field experiments with weaver ants reveal colony-wide, indirect acquisition and retention of the signature odours of a different colony with which they had experienced aggression. These data highlight the significance of interaction history and suggest the presence of a collective memory.
KeywordsNestmate recognition Collective memory Social insects Oecophylla smaragdina
- Crozier RH, Newey PS, Schlüens EA, Robson SKA (2010) A masterpiece of evolution—Oecophylla weaver ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecol News 13:57–71Google Scholar
- Gordon DM (1989) Ants distinguish between neighbours from strangers. Oecologia 81:198–200Google Scholar
- Gordon DM (2010) Ant encounters: interaction networks and colony behavior. Princeton University Press, Princeton, p 167Google Scholar
- Seeley TD (2010) Honeybee democracy. Princeton, Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Vander Meer RK, Alonso LE (1998) Pheromone directed behavior in ants. In: Vander Meer RK, Breed MD, Espelie KE, Winston MLW (eds) Pheromone communication. Westview Press, Colorado, pp 159–192Google Scholar