Cuticular chemistry of males and females in the ant Formica fusca

Abstract

Communication between organisms involves visual, auditory, and olfactory pathways. In solitary insects, chemical recognition cues are influenced mainly by selection regimes related to species recognition and sexual selection. In social insects, chemical recognition cues have an additional role in mediating recognition of society members and, thereby, allowing kin selection to operate. Here, we examined whether cuticular hydrocarbon profiles are sex-specific and whether males and young queens of the ant Formica fusca have colony-specific profiles. We also investigated whether there is a relationship between genetic relatedness and chemical diversity within colonies. We demonstrated that female and male sexuals do not have unique sex-specific compounds, but that there are quantitative chemical differences between the sexes. Out of the 51 cuticular hydrocarbon compounds identified, 10 showed a significant quantitative difference between males and females. We also showed that both males and females have a significant colony-specific component in their profiles. Finally, we found a negative correlation between within-colony relatedness and within-colony chemical diversity of branched, but not linear compounds. This suggests that colonies with multiple matri- or patrilines also have a significantly greater chemical diversity.

Publication
Journal of Chemical Ecology