Hydrocarbons on Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) Middens Guide Foragers to the Nest
- 236 Downloads
Colony-specific cuticular hydrocarbons are used by social insects in nestmate recognition. Here, we showed that hydrocarbons found on the mound of Pogonomyrmex barbatus nests facilitate the return of foragers to the nest. Colony-specific hydrocarbons, which ants use to distinguish nestmates from non-nestmates, are found on the midden pebbles placed on the nest mound. Midden hydrocarbons occur in a concentration gradient, growing stronger near the nest entrance, which is in the center of a 1–2 m diameter nest mound. Foraging behavior was disrupted when the gradient of hydrocarbons was altered experimentally. When midden material was diluted with artificial pebbles lacking the colony-specific hydrocarbons, the speed of returning foragers decreased significantly. The chemical environment of the nest mound contributes to the regulation of foraging behavior in harvester ants.
Key WordsPogonomyrmex barbatus Hydrocarbons Homing Chemical ecology Foraging behavior
We thank Mattias Lanas for his technical assistance in the field. Many thanks to all the volunteers and staff at the Southwestern Research Station (SWRS) in Portal, AZ. Funding was provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant, the SWRS Student Support Fund, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and NIH-NIDCD through a National Research Service Award (NRSA).
- Aron, S., Pasteels, J. M., and Deneubour, J. L. 1989. Trail-laying behavior during exploratory recruitment in the Argentine ant Iridomyrmex humilis mayr. Biol. Behav. 14:207–217.Google Scholar
- Cammaerts, R. and Cammaerts, M.C. 1987. Nest Topology, Nestmate recognition, territorial marking and homing in the ant Manica rubida (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Biol. Behav. 12:65–81.Google Scholar
- Cammaerts, M. C. and Rachidi, Z. 2009. Olfactive conditioning and use of visual and odorous cues for movement in the ant Myrmica sabuleti (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 12:117–127.Google Scholar
- D'ettorre, P. and Lenoir, A. 2010. Nestmate Recognition. pp. 194–209, in L. Lach, C. Parr and K. Abbott (eds.). Ant Ecology. Oxford University Press, USA.Google Scholar
- Singer, T. L. 1998. Roles of hydrocarbons in the recognition systems of insects. Am. Zoologist 38:394–405.Google Scholar
- Walsh, C.T., Law, J. H., and Wilson, E. O. 1965. Purification of fire ant trail substance. Nature 207:320&.Google Scholar
- Wu, HJ. 1989. Home range orientation of the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus (Smith). Bull Ins Zool Acad Sin (Taipei) 28:87–96.Google Scholar
- Zar, J. H. 1999. Biostatistical Analysis. 4th ed. pp. 278–279. Prentice Hall.Google Scholar