SEEK: Salford Environment for Expertise and Knowledge

Journal Article (Refereed)
January 2009

A review of ant cuticular hydrocarbons

Martin, S 2009, 'A review of ant cuticular hydrocarbons ', Journal of Chemical Ecology, 35, pp.1151-1161.


We compared the published cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles of 78 different ant species, across 5 sub-families. Across these 78 species, almost 1000 CHCs have been described and these are composed of 187 distinct homologous series. These compounds fell into ten hydrocarbon groups. In descending order of occurrence among the 78 species were: nalkanes> monomethylalkanes> dimethylalkanes> alkenes> dienes>>trimethylalkanes>>methylalkenes>methylalkadienes>trienes>tetramethylalkanes. Odd chain lengths and positions of methyl or double bonds at odd carbon numbers were far more numerous than even chain-length compounds or bond positions. Although, each species possess its own unique pattern of CHCs we found no association between CHC profile and phylogeny. The production of the biosynthetically complex compounds (e.g. methyl branched dienes) by the most primitive living ant, suggests that the basic genetic architecture required to produce the rich diversity of CHCs was already present prior to their adaptive radiation. Unlike the ubiquitous nalkanes and monomethylalkanes there is a huge diversity of species-specific dimethylalkanes that makes them likely candidates for species and nest-mate discrimination signals.


SEEK Members

Publication Details

Journal Name
Journal of Chemical Ecology