Journal of Ethology

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 259–264 | Cite as

Context-dependent aggression toward non-nestmates in the ant Diacamma sp. from Japan

  • Jumpei Uematsu
  • Masayuki Hayashi
  • Hiroyuki Shimoji
  • Michel-Olivier Laurent Salazar
  • Kazuki TsujiEmail author
Video Article


Aggression toward competitors is a useful measure of resource ownership and defense in animals, but aggressive behavior is costly. Therefore, it is predicted that animals will display aggression only when the expected benefit to individual fitness exceeds the expected cost. In ants, when conspecific individuals belonging to different colonies encounter each other, fighting occurs, seemingly facultatively. However, the context that influences the expression of ants’ aggressive behavior, especially in the field, is still largely unknown. We investigated the plasticity of aggressiveness toward non-nestmates in Diacamma sp. from Japan. Our field experiment clearly showed that the same foragers that were aggressive toward non-nestmates in the vicinity of their nest changed to be non-aggressive at greater distances from the nest. Furthermore, the size of the colony to which the foragers belonged weakly but significantly affected their aggressiveness: foragers belonging to larger colonies behaved more aggressively toward non-nestmates. We discuss the possible adaptive significance of the observed facultative aggression between conspecific non-nestmates. Digital video images related to the article are available at and


Social insect Nestmate discrimination Intraspecific competition Social parasitism Cost and benefit 



We thank H. Tatsuta, K. Tsurui, Aey T. Win, Y. Okada, and H. Fujioka for their help and advice with the field experiments and analysis. Kazuki Tsuji is received the fund from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JP) with the Grants numbers KAKENHI 16F16794, KAKANHI 17H01249, KAKANHI 16H04846, KAKANHI 16K14865, KAKANHI 15H02652.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Informed consent


Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MP4 6941 kb) The aggressive behavior of marked worker toward an attached worker

Supplementary material 2 (MP4 5361 kb) The escape behavior of marked worker from an attached worker

10164_2019_611_MOESM3_ESM.png (43 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PNG 43 kb) The relationship between the response to a non-nestmate performed by four specific marked workers and distance from the nest. Those four individuals (Id 12, Id 28, Id45, and Id58) belong to different colonies. The above examples clearly show that a single individual changes behavior depending on the distance from the nest. Context-dependent aggression toward non-nestmates in the ant Diacamma sp. from Japan. Jumpei Uematsu, Masayuki Hayashi, Hiroyuki Shimoji, Michel-Olivier Laurent Salazar, Kazuki Tsuji. (Supplementary material 1: 7.1 MB, 00:00:04; Supplementary material 2: 5.5 MB, 00:00:03)Shot date: 2018/10/21. Shot location: Sueyoshi Park, Okinawa, Japan. Species: Diacamma sp. Key words: intraspecific competition, aggressive behavior, nestmate discrimination. Workers of Diacamma sp. behaved aggressively toward a non-nestmate worker (unmarked and tied with a polyester thread) when the encounter occurred near their own nest. When workers encountered a non-nestmate at a distance far from their nests they often escaped from the non-nestmate. Distance from the nest, therefore, had a significant negative correlation with the aggressive behavioral responses of workers toward non-nestmates


  1. Alloway TM (1979) Raiding behaviour of two species of slave-making ants, Harpagoxenus americanus (Emery) and Leptothorax dulotieus Wesson (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Anim Behav 27:202–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alloway TM (1980) The origins of slavery in leptothoracine ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Am Nat 115:247–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amsalem E, Hefetz A (2011) The effect of group size on the interplay between dominance and reproduction in Bombus terrestris. PLoS One 6:e18238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Axelrod R, Hamilton WD (1981) The evolution of cooperation. Science 211:1390–1396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barbieri RF, Grangier J, Lester PJ (2015) Synergistic effects of temperature, diet and colony size on the competitive ability of two ant species. Aust Ecol 40:90–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Billen J, Peeters C (1991) Fine structure of the gemma gland in the ant Diacamma australe (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Belg J Zool 121:203–210Google Scholar
  7. Cant MA, Llop JB, Field J (2006) Individual variation in social aggression and the probability of inheritance: theory and a field test. Am Nat 167:837–852CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Christensen C, Radford AN (2018) Dear enemies or nasty neighbors? Causes and consequences of variation in the responses of group-living species to territorial intrusions. Behav Ecol 29:1004–1013CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cole BJ (1986) The social behavior of Leptothorax allardycei (Hymenoptera, Formicidae): time budgets and the evolution of worker reproduction. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 18:165–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crosland MW (1990) The influence of the queen, colony size and worker ovarian development on nestmate recognition in the ant Rhytidoponera confusa. Anim Behav 39:413–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dugatkin LA, Reeve HK (2000) Game theory and animal behavior. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Fletcher DJ, Ross KG (1985) Regulation of reproduction in eusocial Hymenoptera. Ann Rev Entomol 30:319–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Franks NR, Partridge LW (1993) Lanchester battles and the evolution of combat in ants. Anim Behav 45:197–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fukumoto Y (1983) A new method for studying the successive change of colony composition of the ants in the field. Biol Mag Okinawa 21:27–31Google Scholar
  15. Fukumoto Y, Abe T, Taki A (1989) A novel form of colony organization in the “queenless” ant Diacamma rugosum. Physiol Ecol Japan 26:55–61Google Scholar
  16. Heinze J, Foitzik S, Hippert A, Hölldobler B (1996) Apparent dear-enemy phenomenon and environment-based recognition cues in the ant Leptothorax nylanderi. Ethology 102:510–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1978) The multiple recruitment systems of the African weaver ant Oecophylla longinoda (Latreille) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 3:19–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Harvard University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jaeger RG (1981) Dear enemy recognition and the costs of aggression between salamanders. Am Nat 117:962–974CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kikuchi T, Nakagawa T, Tsuji K (2008) Changes in relative importance of multiple social regulatory forces with colony size in the ant Diacamma sp. from Japan. Anim Behav 76:2069–2077CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Langen TA, Tripet F, Nonacs P (2000) The red and the black: habituation and the dear-enemy phenomenon in two desert Pheidole ants. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 48:285–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mayade S, Cammaerts MC, Suzzoni JP (1993) Home-range marking and territorial marking in Cataglyphis cursor (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Behav Proc 30:131–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Molet M, Van BM, Monnin T (2005) Dominance hierarchies reduce the number of hopeful reproductives in polygynous queenless ants. Insect Soc 52:247–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Monnin T, Ratnieks FL, Brandão CR (2003) Reproductive conflict in animal societies: hierarchy length increases with colony size in queenless ponerine ants. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 54:71–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Morisita M, Kubota M, Onoyama K (1989) A guide for the identification of Japanese ants. I. Ponerinae, Cerapachyinae, Pseudomyrmecinae, Dorylinae and Leptanillinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecol Soc Japan, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  26. Newey PS, Robson SK, Crozier RH (2010) Weaver ants Oecophylla smaragdina encounter nasty neighbors rather than dear enemies. Ecology 91:2366–2372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Paul B, Paul M, Annagiri S (2016) Opportunistic brood theft in the context of colony relocation in an Indian queenless ant. Sci Rep 6:36166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Plowes NJ, Adams ES (2005) An empirical test of Lanchester’s square law: mortality during battles of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. Proc R Soc B 272:1809–1814CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Smith JM, Price GR (1973) The logic of animal conflict. Nature 246:15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Stuart RJ (1984) Experiments on colony foundation in the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus canadensis MR Smith (Hymenoptera; Formicidae). Can J Zool 62:1995–2001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stuart RJ (1991) Nestmate recognition in leptothoracine ants: testing for effects of queen number, colony size and species of intruder. Anim Behav 42:277–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Stuart RJ, Alloway TM (1983) The slave-making ant, Harpagoxenus canadensis MR Smith, and its host-species, Leptothorax muscorum (Nylander): slave raiding and territoriality. Behaviour 85:58–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stuart RJ, Herbers JM (2000) Nest mate recognition in ants with complex colonies: within- and between-population variation. Behav Ecol 11:676–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Suwabe M, Ohnishi H, Kikuchi T, Tsuji K (2007) Nestmate discrimination in the queenless ponerine ant Diacamma sp. from Japan. Entomol Sci 10:7–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tsuji K (2010) What brings peace to the world of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecol News 13:131–132Google Scholar
  36. Tsuji K (2013) Kin selection, species richness and community. Biol Lett 9:20130491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tsuji K, Ito Y (1986) Territoriality in a queenless ant, Pristomyrmex pungens (Hymenoptera: Myrmicinae). Appl Entomol Zool 21:377–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Uezu K (1977) On the foraging activity of Diacamma rugosum (Le Guillon). Biol Mag Okinawa 15:5–17Google Scholar
  39. Wittlinger M, Wehner R, Wolf H (2006) The ant odometer: stepping on stilts and stumps. Science 312:1965–1967CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jumpei Uematsu
    • 1
  • Masayuki Hayashi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hiroyuki Shimoji
    • 3
  • Michel-Olivier Laurent Salazar
    • 1
  • Kazuki Tsuji
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of AgricultureUniversity of the RyukyusNishiharaJapan
  2. 2.Western Region Agricultural Research CenterNational Agriculture and Food Research OrganizationFukuyamaJapan
  3. 3.Department of BioscienceKwansei Gakuin UniversitySandaJapan

Personalised recommendations