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Ant pupae employ acoustics to communicate social status in their colony’s hierarchy

Casacci, Luca P.; Thomas, Jeremy A.; Sala, Marco; Treanor, David; Bonelli, Simona; Balletto, Emilio; Schonrogge, Karsten. 2013 Ant pupae employ acoustics to communicate social status in their colony’s hierarchy. Current Biology, 23 (4). 323-327. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2013.01.010

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Abstract/Summary

The possession of an efficient communication system and an ability to distinguish between young stages are essential attributes that enable eusocial insects to live in complex integrated societies. Although ants communicate primarily via chemicals, it is increasingly clear that acoustical signals also convey important information, including status, between adults in many species. However, all immature stages were believed to be mute. We confirm that larvae and recently formed pupae of Myrmica ants are mute, yet once they are sclerotized, the pupae possess a fully functioning stridulatory organ. The sounds generated by worker pupae were similar to those of workers but were emitted as single pulses rather than in the long sequences characteristic of adults; both induced the same range and intensity of benevolent behaviors when played back to unstressed workers. Both white and sclerotized pupae have a higher social status than larvae within Myrmica colonies, but the latter’s status fell significantly after they were made mute. Our results suggest that acoustical signals supplant semiochemicals as a means of identification in sclerotized pupae, perhaps because their hardened integuments block the secretion of brood pheromones or because their developing adult secretions initially differ from overall colony odors.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2013.01.010
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 2 - Ecological Processes in the Environment > BD - 2.4 - Estimate the impact of the main drivers and pressures on biodiversity ...
CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hails
ISSN: 0960-9822
Additional Keywords: intercast communication, acoustic signalling, ants
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Zoology
Date made live: 11 Feb 2013 12:35 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/500033

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