A combination of behavioral and chemical analyses was used to investigate the nature of nestmate recognition cues and the effects of worker age and social experience on these cues in the ant Camponotus floridanus. Five categories of workers were tested: foragers, 5-day old and 0-day old callows, 5-day old and 0-day old naive callows. Bioassays consisted of introductions of dead workers from these categories into their own colonies or into an alien colony after the following treatments: 1) killed by freezing, 2) solvent-washed, 3) solvent-washed and coated with a nestmate soak, 4) solvent-washed and coated with a non-nestmate soak. Soaks were obtained from individual ants immersed in hexane and were applied individually to washed workers from the same category. Soaks were analyzed by gas chromatography (GC) and compared by multivariate analyses. Freeze-killed workers from each category elicited more aggressive behavior in the alien colony than in its own. By comparing GC profiles, a worker from any category can be assigned to its colony of origin. Thus all studied worker categories are colony-specific. Solvent-washed ants did not induce more aggressive behaviors in the alien colony than in their own, but they induced significantly less aggressivity in an alien colony than non-treated dead ants from the same category. Washed ants indced more aggressive behaviors when coated with a soak from a different colony as opposed to a soak from the colony in which they were introduced. The combination of behavioral and chemical results lead to the following conclusions: 1) Information contained in soak derived from workers was sufficient to allow nestmate recognition. 2) Nestmate recognition cues, and consequently the recognition response displayed to their bearer, change with age. 3) Social experience is necessary to develop or acquire a colony-specific label. The role of age and social experience on nestmate recognition in social Hymenoptera is discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology