Recognition in Ants: Social Origin Matters

Abstract : The ability of group members to discriminate against foreigners is a keystone in the evolution of sociality. In social insects, colony social structure (number of queens) is generally thought to influence abilities of resident workers to discriminate between nestmates and non-nestmates. However, whether social origin of introduced individuals has an effect on their acceptance in conspecific colonies remains poorly explored. Using egg-acceptance bioassays, we tested the influence of social origin of queen-laid eggs on their acceptance by foreign workers in the ant Formica selysi. We showed that workers from both single- and multiple-queen colonies discriminated against foreign eggs from single-queen colonies, whereas they surprisingly accepted foreign eggs from multiple-queen colonies. Chemical analyses then demonstrated that social origins of eggs and workers could be discriminated on the basis of their chemical profiles, a signal generally involved in nestmate discrimination. These findings provide the first evidence in social insects that social origins of eggs interfere with nestmate discrimination and are encoded by chemical signatures.
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Submitted on : Monday, January 9, 2012 - 2:11:02 PM
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Joël Meunier, Joël Meunier, Olivier Delémont, Christophe Lucas. Recognition in Ants: Social Origin Matters. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2011, 6 (5), pp.19347. ⟨hal-00657879⟩

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