Polyethism in social interactions in ants

A. Bonavita-Cougourdan, L. Morel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Worker ants, which perform various tasks in their society (division of labour or polyethism), also demonstrate different types of antennal activity in trophallactic interactions. These differences concern the variability in successions of behavioural units performed by the worker in the course of substance transmission as well as in the sequential organization of these units. The antennal activity of an aged worker varies according to whether the ant gives food to another aged worker or to a callow worker. In the latter case, the donor's behaviour does not differ according to its social function (brood-tending worker or forager). A parallel can be established between these results and those obtained in a previous study of aggressive behaviour. This behaviour is liable to appear when a callow worker extracted from its society before hatching and therefore deprived of relations with aged workers of the society, is therefore placed with an aged worker. Polyethism is then manifested in social interactions, and not only in the division of labour between members of the society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-433
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1985
Externally publishedYes


  • Ants - Polyethism - Trophallactic behaviour - Ontogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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