Journal Article (Refereed)
Weak patriline effects are present in the cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of isolated Formica exsecta ants but they disappear in the colony environment
Martin, S 2012, 'Weak patriline effects are present in the cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of isolated Formica exsecta ants but they disappear in the colony environment ', Evolution and Ecology.
Chemical recognition cues are used to discriminate among species, con-specifics, and potentially between patrilines in social insect colonies. There is an ongoing debate about the possible persistence of patriline cues despite evidence for the mixing of colony odours via a ‘gestalt’ mechanism in social insects, because patriline recognition could lead to nepotism. We analyzed the variation in recognition cues (cuticular hydrocarbons) with different mating frequencies or queen numbers in 688 Formica exsecta ants from 76 colonies. We found no increase in the profile variance as genetic diversity increased, indicating that patriline effects were absent or possibly obscured by a gestalt mechanism. We then demonstrated that an isolated individual’s profile changed considerably relative to their colony profile, before stabilizing after five days. We used these isolated individuals to eliminate the masking effects of the gestalt mechanism and we detected a weak but statistically significant patriline effect in isolated adult workers and also in newly-emerged callow workers. Thus, our evidence suggests that genetic variation in the cuticular hydrocarbon profile of F. exsecta ants (n-alkanes and alkenes) resulted in differences among patrilines but they were obscured in the colony environment, thereby avoiding costly nepotistic behaviours.
Evolution and Ecology