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Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 1461–1477 | Cite as

Functional subcaste discrimination (foragers and brood-tenders) in the antCamponotus vagus scop.: polymorphism of cuticular hydrocarbon patterns

  • Annie Bonavita-Cougourdan
  • Jean-Luc Clement
  • Catherine Lange
Article

Abstract

In the antCamponotus vagus, when selected foragers that had been earlier removed from the foraging arena and brood-tenders that had been earlier removed from the nest were placed together in a foraging arena, most of the brood-tenders and only a few of the selected foragers were carried back to the nest by nonselected foragers. We hypothesize that cuticular hydrocarbons serve as a cue that allows foragers to discriminate between members of their own subcaste and brood-tenders. It has been established that the proportions of certain hydrocarbons, which are the same regardless of the colony studied, vary from one worker subcaste to another and thus constitute a specific chemical signature. These hydrocarbons belong to a wide range of chemical families (alkanes, monomethylalkanes, and dimethylalkanes). The greatest differences between the two subcastes were observed on the thorax of workers. Principal component analyses performed on the hydrocarbons (or hydrocarbon combinations) corresponding to the 45 main peaks in the cuticular profiles of the head and thorax of brood-tenders and foragers of several colonies show that there exist quantitative differences between the various signatures that characterize the colony, the worker subcastes, and the various body parts within the same species, which can be classified in a hierarchy where the differences between worker subcastes are less pronounced than those between body parts or between colonies.

Key Words

Ants worker subcastes discrimination polyethism cuticular hydrocarbons 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annie Bonavita-Cougourdan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jean-Luc Clement
    • 1
  • Catherine Lange
    • 3
  1. 1.Lab. NeurobiologieCNRSMarseilleFrance
  2. 2.Lab. Communication chimique et nerveuseUniversité de ProvenceFrance
  3. 3.Centre Régional de Spectroscopie Laboratoire de Spectrométrie de Masse UFR des SciencesUniversité de RouenMont SaintAignanFrance

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