Norman, VC, Butterfield, T, Drijfhout, FP, Tasman, K and Hughes, WOH (2017) Alarm Pheromone Composition and Behavioral Activity in Fungus-Growing Ants. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 43 (3). 225 - 235. ISSN 1573-1561

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Chemical communication is a dominant method of communication throughout the animal kingdom and can be especially important in group-living animals in which communicating threats, either from predation or other dangers, can have large impacts on group survival. Social insects, in particular, have evolved a number of pheromonal compounds specifically to signal alarm. There is predicted to be little selection for interspecific variation in alarm cues because individuals may benefit from recognizing interspecific as well as conspecific cues and, consequently, alarm cues are not normally thought to be used for species or nestmate recognition. Here, we examine the composition of the alarm pheromones of seven species of fungus-growing ants (Attini), including both basal and derived species and examine the behavioral responses to alarm pheromone of Acromyrmex leaf-cutting ants, the sister genus to the highly studied Atta leaf-cutting ants. We find surprisingly high interspecific variation in alarm pheromone composition across the attine phylogeny. Interestingly, the active component of the alarm pheromone was different between the two leaf-cutting ant genera. Furthermore, in contrast to previous studies on Atta, we found no differences among morphological castes in their responses to alarm pheromone in Acromyrmex but we did find differences in responses among putative age classes. The results suggest that the evolution of alarm communication and signaling within social insect clades can be unexpectedly complex and that further work is warranted to understand whether the evolution of different alarm pheromone compounds is adaptive.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Uncontrolled Keywords: pheromone composition, behavioral activity, fungus-grown ants.
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
Divisions: Faculty of Natural Sciences > School of Chemical and Physical Sciences
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2020 11:36
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2021 09:38

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