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Liquid exchange via stomodeal trophallaxis in the ponerine ant Diacamma sp. from Japan


Trophallaxis plays a major role in the sharing of food in colonies of many social insects, and two modes of this are known: stomodeal (oral) and proctodeal (abdominal) trophallaxis. In social Hymenoptera, only a small proportion of colony members perform the task of food collection, and oral trophallaxis is predominant in their social sharing of food. Typically, foragers distribute liquid food stored in their crop to nestmates via oral trophallaxis. Similar to bees, some ants (Formicidae) forage for liquid food from plant secretions (nectars) and insect exudates (honeydew). While regurgitation is common in ants, it has been documented in only two species of the Ponerinae. Here, we report the ability of Diacamma sp. from Japan to perform trophallaxis. After thirsty ants had been paired with ants provided with colored water, the abdomens of both groups of ants were dissected. The digestive organ was colored red in half of the receivers. In addition, we observed mouth-to-mouth interactions in the laboratory, not “social bucket” behavior (i.e., exchange of liquid held between mandibles). Our results suggest that Diacamma sp. can exchange liquid by true oral trophallaxis and shed new light on social organization via liquid exchange.

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We would like to thank Mr. Taku Shimada ( for taking the wonderful photographs and providing advice on Diacamma sp. observation. We thank Ms. S. Hakataya for helping maintain the ants.


This study was supported by KAHENHI Grants-in-aid for Scientific Research on Innovation Areas (Integrative Research toward Elucidation of Generative Brain Systems for Individuality) (JP18J13369 to H. F.; JP17K19381 and JP18H04815 to Y. O.), and MEXT (JP17H05938 and JP19H04913 to Y. O.).

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Correspondence to Haruna Fujioka.

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Fujioka, H., Okada, Y. Liquid exchange via stomodeal trophallaxis in the ponerine ant Diacamma sp. from Japan. J Ethol 37, 371–375 (2019).

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  • Hymenoptera
  • Oral trophallaxis
  • Social bucket
  • Mouth-to-mouth interaction