Nest and colony-specific spectra in the weaver ant Oecophylla smaragdina

Newey, P., Robson, S.K.A., and Crozier, R.H. (2009) Nest and colony-specific spectra in the weaver ant Oecophylla smaragdina. Insectes Sociaux, 56 (3). pp. 261-268.

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Animals in social groups need to differentiate between group members and others. In very large groups, such as those formed by many ant species, it is not possible to rely on individually specific cues to identify colonymates. Instead, recognition must be based on the colony-specific cues. Individual ant colonies tend to have a specific chemical gestalt that is maintained by the continual exchange of chemicals between workers. In very large polydomous colonies, the exchange of chemicals may be limited between nests within the colony, resulting in inter-nest variation in colony odour that might hinder identification of colonymates or conspecific intruders. We used near-infrared spectroscopy to explore variation in the chemical profile between and within colonies of the weaver ant Oecophylla smaragdina. We found that differences between colonies were reflected in the position, amplitude and width of spectral peaks, while differences between nests within colonies were reflected mainly in amplitude. Furthermore, in the context of colonymate recognition, the behaviour of the ants themselves was positively correlated with colony-specific spectral characteristics, rather than with nest-specific characteristics. Thus, colony spectra have features that are not obscured by intra-colonial variation and may potentially encode the chemical characteristics used by workers to identify colonymates.

Item ID: 5242
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1420-9098
Keywords: recognition chemical cue; chemical cue; weaver ants; Oecophylla smaragdina; near-infrared spectroscopy; colony odour
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2009 23:34
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 20%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060303 Biological Adaptation @ 40%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060808 Invertebrate Biology @ 40%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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