Trophallaxis plays a major role in the sharing of food in colonies of many social insects, and two modes of this are known: stomodeal (oral) and proctodeal (abdominal) trophallaxis. In social Hymenoptera, only a small proportion of colony members perform the task of food collection, and oral trophallaxis is predominant in their social sharing of food. Typically, foragers distribute liquid food stored in their crop to nestmates via oral trophallaxis. Similar to bees, some ants (Formicidae) forage for liquid food from plant secretions (nectars) and insect exudates (honeydew). While regurgitation is common in ants, it has been documented in only two species of the Ponerinae. Here, we report the ability of Diacamma sp. from Japan to perform trophallaxis. After thirsty ants had been paired with ants provided with colored water, the abdomens of both groups of ants were dissected. The digestive organ was colored red in half of the receivers. In addition, we observed mouth-to-mouth interactions in the laboratory, not “social bucket” behavior (i.e., exchange of liquid held between mandibles). Our results suggest that Diacamma sp. can exchange liquid by true oral trophallaxis and shed new light on social organization via liquid exchange.
Hymenoptera Oral trophallaxis Social bucket Mouth-to-mouth interaction
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
We would like to thank Mr. Taku Shimada (http://blog.livedoor.jp/antroom/) for taking the wonderful photographs and providing advice on Diacamma sp. observation. We thank Ms. S. Hakataya for helping maintain the ants.
This study was supported by KAHENHI Grants-in-aid for Scientific Research on Innovation Areas (Integrative Research toward Elucidation of Generative Brain Systems for Individuality) (JP18J13369 to H. F.; JP17K19381 and JP18H04815 to Y. O.), and MEXT (JP17H05938 and JP19H04913 to Y. O.).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Boulay R, Hefetz A, Soroker V, Lenoir A (2000) Camponotus fellah colony integration: worker individuality necessitates frequent hydrocarbon exchanges. Anim Behav 59:1127–1133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cassill DL, Tschinkel WR (1996) A duration constant for worker-to-larva trophallaxis in fire ants. Insect Soc 43(2):149–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cook SC, Davidson DW (2006) Nutritional and functional biology of exudate-feeding ants. Entomol Exp Appl 118(1):1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Corbara B, Lachaud JP, Fresneau D (1989) Individual variability, social structure and division of labour in the ponerine ant Ectatomma ruidum Roger (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Ethology 82:89–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davidson DW, Cook SC, Snelling RR (2004) Liquid-feeding performances of ants (Formicidae): ecological and evolutionary implications. Oecologia 139(2):255–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dejean A, Suzzoni J (1997) Surface tension strengths in the service of a ponerine ant: a new kind of nectar transport. Naturwissenschaften 84:76–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dejean A, Le Breton J, Suzzoni JP, Orivel J, Saux-Moreau C (2005) Influence of interspecific competition on the recruitment behavior and liquid food transport in the tramp ant species Pheidole megacephala. Naturwissenschaften 92(7):324–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Duarte A, Weissing FJ, Pen I, Keller L (2011) An evolutionary perspective on self-organized division of labor in social insects. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 42:91–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eisner T (1957) A comparative morphological study of the proventriculus of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bull Mus Comp Zool 116:437–490Google Scholar
Eisner T, Aneshansley D (2008) “Anting” in blue jays: evidence in support of a food-preparatory function. Chemoecology 18(4):197–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hamilton C, Lejeune BT, Rosengaus RB (2011) Trophallaxis and prophylaxis: social immunity in the carpenter ant Camponotus pennsylvanicus. Biol Lett 7:89–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hashimoto Y, Yamauchi K, Hasegawa E (1995) Unique habits of stomodeal trophallaxis in the ponerine ant Hypoponera sp. Insect Soc 42:137–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hermann H (1975) Crepuscular and nocturnal activities of Paraponera clavata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae)[Insects]. Entomol News 86:94–98Google Scholar
Hölldobler B (1985) Liquid food transmission and antennation signals in ponerine ants. Isr J Entomol 19:89–99Google Scholar
Jaffe K, Caetano FH, Sánchez P, Hernández JV, Rincones J, Caraballo L (2001) Sensitivity of colonies and individuals of Cephalotes ants to antibiotics imply a feeding symbiosis with gut microorganisms. Can J Zool 79(6):1120–1124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kukuk PF, Crozier RH (1990) Trophallaxis in a communal halictine bee Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) erythrurum. Proc Natl Acad Sci 87:5402–5404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lachaud J, Dejean A (1991) Food sharing in Odontomachus troglodytes (Santschi): a behavioral intermediate stage in the evolution of social food exchange in ants. An Biol 17:53–61Google Scholar
Liebig J, Heinze J, Hölldobler B (1997) Trophallaxis and aggression in the ponerine ant, Ponera coarctata: implications for the evolution of liquid food exchange in the Hymenoptera. Ethology 103:707–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Machida M, Kitade O, Miura T, Matsumoto T (2001) Nitrogen recycling through proctodeal trophallaxis in the Japanese damp-wood termite Hodotermopsis japonica (Isoptera, Termopsidae). Insect Soc 48:52–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oster GF, Wilson EO (1979) Caste and ecology in the social insects. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
Peeters C (1997) Morphologically ‘primitive’ants: comparative review of social characters, and the importance of queen-worker dimorphism. In: Choe J, Crespi B (eds) The evolution of social behaviour in insects and arachnids. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 372–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Provecho Y, Josens R (2009) Olfactory memory established during trophallaxis affects food search behaviour in ants. J Exp Biol 212:3221–3227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Terayama M, Kubota S, Eguchi K (2014) Encyclopedia of Japanese ants. Asakura Shoten, Tokyo, p 278Google Scholar
Viginier B, Peeters C, Brazier L, Doums C (2004) Very low genetic variability in the Indian queenless ant Diacamma indicum. Mol Ecol 13(7):2095–2100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilson E, Eisner T (1957) Quantitative studies of liquid food transmission in ants. Insect Soc 4:157–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Win AT, Machida Y, Miyamoto Y, Dobata S, Tsuji K (2018) Seasonal and temporal variations in colony-level foraging activity of a queenless ant, Diacamma sp., in Japan. J Ethol 36:277–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar