Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 75–83 | Cite as

Interspecific aggression in colonies of the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus sublaevis

  • Jürgen Heinze
  • Diethe Ortius
  • Manfred Kaib
  • Bert Hölldobler


Colonies of the slave-making ant, Harpagoxenus sublaevis, may simultaneously contain workers of several Leptothorax slave species. We observed aggressive interactions among slave-makers, between slavemakers and slaves, and among slaves in 11 mixed colonies. The first two types of aggression appear to be correlated with reproductive competition for the production of males. Aggressive interactions among slaves, however, occurred mainly between slaves belonging to different species. In two colonies, in which one slave species clearly outnumbered the other, the majority attacked and finally expelled all nestmates belonging to the minority species. Our observations thus suggest that in Harpagoxenus colonies a homogeneous “colony odor” is not always achieved and that heterospecific slaves may occasionally be mistaken for alien ants. Gas chromatographic analyses of ants from mixed colonies similarly show that cuticular hydrocarbon profiles may differ strongly between heterospecific nestmate slaves.

Key words

Slave-making ants Interspecific aggression Reproductive competition Nest odor Cuticular hydrocarbons 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Altmann J (1974) Observational study of behavior: sampling methods. Behaviour 49:227–267PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bonavita-Cougourdan A, Clément J-L, Lange C (1989) The role of cuticular hydrocarbons in recognition of larvae by workers of the ant Camponotus vagus: changes in the chemical signature in response to social environment (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 16:49–74Google Scholar
  3. Bourke AFG (1988) Dominance orders, worker reproduction, and queen-worker conflict in the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus sublaevis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 23:323–333Google Scholar
  4. Buckle GR, Greenberg L (1981) Nestmate recognition in sweat bees (Lasioglossum zephyrum): does an individual recognize its own odour or only odours of its nestmates? Anim Behav 29:802–809Google Scholar
  5. Buschinger A (1966) Untersuchungen an Harpagoxenus sublaevis Nyl. (Hym., Formicidae). I. Freilandbeobachtungen zu Verbreitung und Lebensweise. Insectes Soc 13:5–16Google Scholar
  6. Buschinger A (1974) Experimente und Beobachtungen zur Gründung and Entwicklung neuer Sozietäten der sklavenhaltenden Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Nyl.). Insectes Soc 21:381–406Google Scholar
  7. Buschinger A, Alloway TM (1978) Caste polymorphism in Harpagoxenus canadensis M.R. Smith (Hym., Formicidae). Insectes Soc 25:339–350Google Scholar
  8. Buschinger A, Winter U (1978) Echte Arbeiterinnen, fertile Arbeiterinnen and sterile Wirtsweibchen in Völkern der dulotischen Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Nyl.) (Hym., Form.). Insectes Soc 25:63–78Google Scholar
  9. Buschinger A, Ehrhardt W, Winter U (1980) The organization of slave raids in dulotic ants — a comparative study (Hymenoptera; Formicidae). Z Tierpsychol 53:245–264Google Scholar
  10. Buschinger A, Ehrhardt W, Fischer K, Ofer J (1988) The slavemaking ant genus Chalepoxenus (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). I. Review of literature, range, slave species. Zool Jb Syst 115:383–401Google Scholar
  11. Carlin NF (1989) Discrimination between and within colonies of social insects: two null hypotheses. Neth J Zool 39:86–100Google Scholar
  12. Carlin NF, Hölldobler B (1983) Nestmate and kin recognition in interspecific mixed colonies of ants. Science 222:1027–1029Google Scholar
  13. Carlin NF, Hölldobler B, Gladstein DS (1987) The kin recognition system of carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.). III Withincolony discrimination. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 20:219–227Google Scholar
  14. Crozier RH, Dix MW (1979) Analysis of two genetic models for the innate components of colony odor in social Hymenoptera. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 4:217–224Google Scholar
  15. Dobrzański J (1966)Contribution to the ethology of Leptothorax acervorum (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Acta Biol Exper 26:71–78Google Scholar
  16. Errard C, Jaisson P (1991) Les premiéres étapes de la reconnaissance interspécifique chez les fourmis Manica rubida et Formica selysi (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) élevées en colonies mixtes. CR Acad Sci Paris Sér III 313:73–80Google Scholar
  17. Errard C, Bagnéres AG, Clément JL (1989) Les signaux chimiques de la reconnaissance interspécifique chez les fourmis. Actes Coll Insectes Soc 5, 285–292Google Scholar
  18. Fielde AM (1903) Artificial mixed nests of ants. Biol Bull Mar Biol Lab Woods Hole 5:320–325Google Scholar
  19. Franks N, Blum M, Smith R-K, Allies AB (1990) Behavior and chemical disguise of cuckoo ant Leptothorax kutteri in relation to its host Leptothorax acervorum. J Chem Ecol 16:1431–1444Google Scholar
  20. Goodloe L, Sanwald R, Topoff H (1987) Host specificity in raiding behavior of the slave-making ant Polyergus lucidus. Psyche 94:39–44Google Scholar
  21. Greenberg L (1979) Genetic component of bee odor in kin recognition. Science 206:1095–1097Google Scholar
  22. Habersetzer C (1993) Cuticular spectra and inter-individual recognition in the slave-making ant Polyergus rufescens and the slave species Formica rufibarbis. Physiol Entomol 18:167–175Google Scholar
  23. Habersetzer C, Bonavita-Cougourdan A (1993) Cuticular spectra in the slave-making ant Polyergus rufescens and the slave species Formica rufbarbis. Physiol Entomol 18:160–166Google Scholar
  24. Hamilton WD (1964) The genetical evolution of social behaviour. J Theor Biol 7:1–52PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Heinze J, Stuart RJ, Alloway TM, Buschinger A (1992) Host specificity in the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus canadensis M.R. Smith. Can J Zool 70:167–170Google Scholar
  26. Hölldobler B (1973) Zur Ethologie der chemischen Verständigung bei Ameisen. Nova Acta Leopold 37:259–292Google Scholar
  27. Hölldobler B (1977) Communication in social Hymenoptera. In: Sebeok TA (ed) How animals communicate. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 418–471Google Scholar
  28. Hölldobler B, Michener CD (1980) Mechanisms of identification and discrimination in social Hymenoptera. In: Markl H (ed) Evolution of social behavior: hypotheses and empirical tests. Chemie, Weinheim, 35–58Google Scholar
  29. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Belknap, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  30. Hung AC (1973) Reproductive biology in dulotic ants: preliminary report (Hymenoppera: Formicidae). Entomol News 84:253–259Google Scholar
  31. Jaisson P (1975) L'imprégnation dans l'ontogénése des comportements de soins aux cocons chez la jeune fourmi rousse (Formica polyctena Först.). Behaviour 52:1–37Google Scholar
  32. Kaib M, Brandl R, Bagine RKN (1991) Cuticular hydrocarbon profiles: A tool in termite taxonomy. Naturwissenschaften 78:176–179Google Scholar
  33. Kaib M, Heinze J, Ortius D (1993) Cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of adults and pupae in the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus sublaevis and its hosts. Naturwissenschaften 80:281–285Google Scholar
  34. Le Moli F, Mori A (1987) The problem of enslaved ant species: origin and behavior. In: Pasteels JM, Deneubourg J-L (eds) From individual to collective behavior in social insects. Birkhäuser, Basel, 333–363Google Scholar
  35. Morel L, Vander Meer RK, Lavine BK (1988) Ontogeny of nestmate recognition cues in the red carpenter ant (Camponotus foridanus): behavioral and chemical evidence for the role of age and social experience. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 22:175–183Google Scholar
  36. Nowbahari E, Lenoir A, Clément JL, Lange C, Bagnéres AG, Joulie C (1990) Individual, geographical and experimental variation of cuticular hydrocarbons of the ant Cataglyphis cursor (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): their use in nest and subspecies recognition. Biochem Syst Ecol 18:63–73Google Scholar
  37. Obin MS (1986) Nestmate recognition cues in laboratory and field colonies of Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J Chem Ecol 12:1965–1975Google Scholar
  38. Ortius D (1992) Untersuchung zur sozialen Struktur unter den Sklaven in gemischten Kolonien von Harpagoxenus sublaevis. Unpublished Diploma-thesis, Julius-Maximilians-Universität, WürzburgGoogle Scholar
  39. Rohlf FJ (1990) NTSYS-pc. Numerical taxonomy and multivariate analysis systems. Exeter, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  40. Sachs L (1984) Angewandte Statistik. 6th edn., Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. Schumann R, Buschinger A (1991) Selective acceptance of alien host species pupae by slaves of the dulotic ant, Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Myrmicinae). Ethology 88:154–162Google Scholar
  42. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1987) Introduction to biostatistics. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Stuart RJ (1988a) Development and evolution in the nestmate recognition systems of social insects. In: Greenberg G, Tobach E (eds) Evolution of social behavior and integrative levels Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, pp. 177–195Google Scholar
  44. Stuart RJ (1988b) Collective cues as a basis for nestmate recognition in polygynous leptothoracine ants. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 85:4572–4575Google Scholar
  45. Stuart RJ (1992) Nestmate recognition and the ontogeny of acceptability in the ant, Leptothorax curvispinosus. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 30:403–408Google Scholar
  46. Vienne C, Errard C, Lenoir A (1992) Spatial organization & nestmate recognition in artifical mixed colonies of Manica rubida and Myrmica rubra (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 20:1–16Google Scholar
  47. Wilson EO (1955) Division of labor in a nest of the slave-making ant Formica wheeleri Creighton. Psyche 62:130–133Google Scholar
  48. Wilson EO (1971) The insect societies. Belknap, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  49. Yamaoka R (1990) Chemical approach to understanding interactions among organisms. Physiol Ecol Jpn 27:31–52Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jürgen Heinze
    • 1
  • Diethe Ortius
    • 1
  • Manfred Kaib
    • 2
  • Bert Hölldobler
    • 1
  1. 1.LS Verhaltensphysiologie und SoziobiologieTheodor-Boveri-InstitutWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.LS TierphysiologieUniversität BayreuthBayreuthGermany

Personalised recommendations