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Mandibular Gland Secretion in Different Castes of the Leaf-Cutter Ant Atta laevigata

Abstract

Gas chromatography analyses and behavioral assays showed that Atta laevigata, a highly polymorphic ant species, has a mandibular gland secretion that varies with castes. All castes contain 4-methyl-3-heptanone as the main component and its concentration is proportional to head size. Small workers and soldiers, but not medium size workers, also contain 4-methyl-3-heptanol. Queens show variations in their chemical composition after mating, as virgin males contain a secretion dominated by 4-methyl-3-heptanol, and, in a lesser proportion, 4-methyl-3-heptanone. In mated males these proportions are inverted. The compounds 4-methyl-6-hepten-3-one, 4-methyl-4-hepten-3-one, 6-methyl-tetradecene, and 2,6-dimethyl-2-dodecene are found only in queens. The behavioral response elicited by the secretion is mainly alarm, which is elicited more strongly by glands of larger workers. The results suggest that chemical castes, behavioral castes, and morphological castes overlap in this species.

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Hernández, J.V., Cabrera, A. & Jaffe, K. Mandibular Gland Secretion in Different Castes of the Leaf-Cutter Ant Atta laevigata . J Chem Ecol 25, 2433–2444 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020813905989

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  • 4-Methyl-3-heptanone
  • 4-methyl-3-hexanone
  • 4-methyl-3-heptanol
  • castes
  • Atta laevigata
  • Formicidae
  • Attini
  • leaf-cutting ant
  • mandibular gland
  • behavior