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


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 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bagnères, A.G., Clément, J.L., Blum, M.S., Severson, R.F., Joulie, C., andLange, C. 1990. Cuticular hydrocarbons and defensive compounds ofReticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) andR. santonensis (Feytaud): Polymorphism and chemotaxonomy.J. Chem. Ecol. 16:3213–3244.Google Scholar
  2. Bagnères, A.G., Killian, A., Clément, J.L., andLange, C. 1991. Recognition among termites of the genusReticulitermes: Evidence for a role for the cuticular hydrocarbons.J. Chem. Ecol. 17:2397–2420.Google Scholar
  3. Bigley, W.S., andVinson, S.B. 1975. Characterization of a brood pheromone isolated from the sexual brood of the imported fire ant,Solenopsis invicta.Ann. Entomol Soc. Am. 68:301–304.Google Scholar
  4. Billen, J. 1982. Ovariole development in workers ofFormica sanguinea Latr. (Hym. Formicidae).Insectes Soc. 29:86–95.Google Scholar
  5. Bonavita-Cougourdan, A., andMorel, L. 1985. Polyethism in social interactions in ants.Behav. Proc. 11:425–433.Google Scholar
  6. Bonavita-Cougourdan, A., Clément, J.L., andLange, C. 1987a. Nestmate recognition: The role of cuticular hydrocarbons in the antCamponotus vagus Scop.J. Entomol. Sci. 22:1–10.Google Scholar
  7. Bonavita-Cougourdan, A., Clément, J.L., andLange, C. 1987b. Sub-caste discrimination in the antCamponotus vagus Scop., p. 475,in J. Eder and H. Rembold (eds.). Chemistry and Biology of Social Insects. Peperny, Munich.Google Scholar
  8. Bonavita-Cougourdan, A., Clément, J.L., andLange, C. 1988. Reconnaissance des larves chez la FourmiCamponotus vagus Scop. Phénotypes larvaires des spectres d'hydrocarbures cuticulaires.C.R. Acad. Sci., Paris, Sér. D. 306:299–305.Google Scholar
  9. Bonavita-Cougourdan, A., Clément, J.L., andPovéda, A. 1990. Les hydrocarbures et les processus de reconnaissance chez les Fourmis; Le code d'information complexe deCamponotus vagus.Actes Coll. Insectes Soc. 6:273–280.Google Scholar
  10. Brian, M.V. 1975. Larval recognition by workers of the antMyrmica.Anim. Behav. 23:745–756.Google Scholar
  11. Cammaerts-Tricot, M.C. 1974. Production and perception of attractive pheromones by differently aged workers ofMyrmica rubra L.,Insectes Soc. 21:235–248.Google Scholar
  12. Cammaerts-Tricot, M.C. 1975. Ontogenesis of the defense in the workers ofMyrmica rubra L.Anim. Behav. 23:124–130.Google Scholar
  13. Ceusters, R., Bertrands, H., Petit, H., andVan de Perr, H. 1981. Polyéthisme chezFormica polyctena Först, etMyrmica rubra L. Stratification des ouvrières dans le nid selon leur état physiologique par rapportα un gradient de température. Colloque Sect. Fr. U.I.E.I.S., Toulouse, pp. 38–44.Google Scholar
  14. Deneubourg, J.L., Goss, S., Pasteels, J.M., Fresneau, D., andLachaud, J.P. 1987. Selforganisation mechanisms in ant societies (II): Learning in foraging and division of labour, pp. 177–196,in J.M. Pasteels and J.L. Deneubourg (eds.). From Individual to Collective Behaviour in Social Insects. Birkhäuser, Basel.Google Scholar
  15. Fielde, A.M. 1904. Power of recognition among ants.Biol. Bull. 7:227–250.Google Scholar
  16. Fluri, P., LÜscher, M., Wille, H., andGerig, L. 1982. Changes in weight of the pharyngeal gland and haemolymph titres of juvenile hormone, protein and vitellogenin in worker honey bees.J. Insect Physiol. 28:61–68.Google Scholar
  17. Fresneau, D. 1984. Développement ovarien et statut social chez une fourmi primitive,Neoponera obscuricornis Emery.Insectes Soc. 31:387–402.Google Scholar
  18. Glancey, B.M., Stringer, C.E., Craig, C.H., Bishop, P.M., andMartin, B.B. 1970. Pheromone may induce brood tending in the fire antSolenopsis saevissima.Nature 226:863–864.Google Scholar
  19. Hansen, T.E., andViik, M.O. 1980. Seasonal changes in the content of reserve and cold-resistant substances inFormica aquilonia.Zool. Zh. 59:380–387.Google Scholar
  20. Hohorst, B. 1972. Entwicklung und Ausbildung der Ovarien bei Arbeiterinnen vonFormica (Serviformica) rufibarbis Fabricius.Insectes Soc. 19:398–402.Google Scholar
  21. Hölldobler, B. 1971. Recruitment behavior inCamponotus socius.Z. Vergl. Physiol. 7:123–142.Google Scholar
  22. Hölldobler, B., andMaschwitz, U. 1965. Die Hochzeitsschwarm der RossameiseCamponotus herculeanus.Z. Vergl. Physiol. 50:551–568.Google Scholar
  23. Hölldobler, B., andMichener, C. 1980. Mechanisms of identification and discrimination in social Hymenoptera, pp. 35–56,in H. Markl (ed.). Evolution of Social Behavior. Verlag Chemie, Weinheim.Google Scholar
  24. Hölldobler, B., andWilson, E.O. 1990. The Ants. Springer, Berlin.Google Scholar
  25. Hölldobler, B., Maschwitz, U., andMöglich, M. 1974. Communication by tandem running in the antCamponotus sericeus.J. Comp. Physiol. 90:105–112.Google Scholar
  26. Howard, R.W., McDaniel, C.A., Nelson, D.R., Blomquist, G.J., Gelbaum, L.T., andZalkow, L.H. 1982. Cuticular hydrocarbons ofReticulitermes virginicus (Banks) and their role as potential species and caste recognition cues.J. Chem. Ecol. 8:1227–1239.Google Scholar
  27. Huang, Z.Y., Robinson, G.E., Tobe, S.S., Yagi, K.J., Strambi, C., Strambi, A., andStay, B. 1991. Hormonal regulation of behavioural development in the honey bee is based on changes in the rate of juvenile hormone biosynthesis.J. Insect. Physiol. 37:733–741.Google Scholar
  28. Kneitz, G. 1964. Saisonales Trageverhalten beiFormica Polyctena Foerst.Insectes Soc. 11:105–129.Google Scholar
  29. Kneitz, G. 1970. Jahreszeitliche Veränderungen der Ovariolenzustände in der Arbeiterinnenkaste des Waldameisenstaates vonFormica polyctena Foerst.Zool. Anz., Suppl. 33:209–215.Google Scholar
  30. Lavine, B.K., Van der Meer, R.K., Morel, L., Gunderson, R.W., Hwa Han, J., andStine, A. 1990. False color data imaging: A new pattern recognition technique for analyzing Chromatographic profile data.Microchem. J. 41:288–215.Google Scholar
  31. Le Masne, G. 1951. Echanges de nourriture, trophallaxie et transports mutuels chez les Fourmis, pp. 1104–1119,in P.P. Grassé (ed.). Traité de Zoologie, 10, 2. Masson, Paris.Google Scholar
  32. Le Masne, G. 1953. Observations sur les relations entre le couvain et les adultes chez les Fourmis.Ann. Sci. Nat., Zool. 1 léme Sér. 15:1–56.Google Scholar
  33. Lofgren, C.S., Glancey, B.M., Glover, A., Rocca, J., andTumlison, J. 1983. Behavior of workers ofSolenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) to the queen recognition pheromone: Laboratory studies with an olfactometer and surrogate queens.Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 6:44–50.Google Scholar
  34. Lucas, P., andRenou, M. 1991. A receptor neuron for Z-11 hexadecen-1-al: A minor pheromone component inMamestra suasa (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae).C.R. Acad. Sci. Sér. D, Paris 312:71–76.Google Scholar
  35. Markin, G.P. 1970. Food distribution within laboratory colonies of the Argentine antIridomyrmex humilis (Mayr).Insectes Soc. 17:127–157.Google Scholar
  36. Mintzer, A.C., Williams, H.J., andVinson, S.B. 1987. Identity and variation of hexane soluble cuticular components produced by the acacia antPseudomyrmex ferruginea.Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 86B:27–30.Google Scholar
  37. Möglich, M., andHölldobler, B. 1974. Social carrying behavior and division of labor during nest moving in ants.Psyche 81:219–236.Google Scholar
  38. Morel, L., Vander Meer, R.K., andLavine, B.K. 1988. Ontogeny of nestmate recognition cues in the red carpenter ant (Camponotus floridanus): Behavioral and chemical evidence for the role of age and social experience.Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 22:175–183.Google Scholar
  39. Nowbahari, E., Lenoir, A., Clément, J.L., Lange, C., Bagnères, A.G., andJoulie, C. 1990. Individual, geographical and experimental variation of cuticular hydrocarbons of the antCataglyphis cursor (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): Their use in nest and subspecies recognition.Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 18:63–73.Google Scholar
  40. Otto, D. 1958. Über die Arbeitsteilung im Staate vonFormica rufa rufo-pratensis minor Gössw. und ihre verhaltensphysiologischen Grundlagen: Ein Beitrag zur Biologie der Roten Waldameise.Wiss. Abh. Dtsch. Akad. Landwirtstwiss. Berlin 30:1–169.Google Scholar
  41. Passera, L. 1984. L'organisation sociale des Fourmis. Privat, Toulouse.Google Scholar
  42. Robinson, G.E. 1987. Regulation of honey bee age polyethism by juvenile hormone.Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 20:329–338.Google Scholar
  43. Robinson, S.W., andCherett, J.M. 1974. Laboratory investigations to evaluate the possible use of brood-pheromones of the leaf-cutting antAtta cephalotes L. as a component in an attractive bait.Bull. Entomol. Res. 63:519–529.Google Scholar
  44. Robinson, G.E., Page, R.E., Strambi, C., andStrambi, A. 1989. Hormonal and genetic control of behavioral integration in honey bee colonies.Science 246:109–112.Google Scholar
  45. Robinson, G.E., Strambi, C., Strambi, A., andFeldlaufer, M.F. 1991. Comparison of juvenile hormone and ecdysteroid haemolymph titres in adult worker and queen honey bees (Apis mellifera).J. Insect Physiol. 37:929–935.Google Scholar
  46. Stumper, R. 1956. Sur les sécrétions des fourmis femelles.C.R. Acad. Sci., Paris 242:2487–2489.Google Scholar
  47. Traniello, J.F. 1977. Recruitment behavior, orientation and the organization of foraging in the carpenter antCamponotus pennsylvanicus De Geer.Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 2:61–79.Google Scholar
  48. Walsh, J.P., andTschinkel, W.R. 1974. Brood recognition by contact pheromone in the red imported fire antSolenopsis invicta.Anim. Behav. 22:695–704.Google Scholar
  49. Wilson, E.O. 1971. The Insect Societies. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations