Nest- and colony-mate recognition in polydomous colonies of meat ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus)

Ellen van Wilgenburg, Danielle Ryan, Paul Morrison, Philip J Marriott, Mark Elgar

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Workers of polydomous colonies of social insects must recognize not only colony-mates residing in the same nest but also those living in other nests. We investigated the impact of a decentralized colony structure on colony- and nestmate recognition in the polydomous Australian meat ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus). Field experiments showed that ants of colonies with many nests were less aggressive toward alien conspecifics than those of colonies with few nests. In addition, while meat ants were almost never aggressive toward nestmates, they were frequently aggressive when confronted with an individual from a different nest within the same colony. Our chemical analysis of the cuticular hydrocarbons of workers using a novel comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography technique that increases the number of quantifiable compounds revealed both colony- and nest-specific patterns. Combined, these data indicate an incomplete transfer of colony odor between the nests of polydomous meat ant colonies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-314
Number of pages6
JournalDie Naturwissenschaften
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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