Article: article from journal or magazin.
Nestmate recognition in the unicolonial ant Formica paralugubris
In unicolonial populations of ants, individuals can mix freely within large networks of nests that contain many queens. It has been proposed that the absence of aggression in unicolonial populations stems from a loss of nest mate recognition, but few studies have tested this hypothesis. We investigated patterns of aggression and nest mate recognition in the unicolonial wood ant, Formica paralugubris. Little aggression occurred, even between workers from nests separated by up to 5 km. However, when aggression took place, it was directed toward non-nest mates rather than nest mates. Trophallaxis (exchange of liquid food) occurred very frequently, and surprisingly, workers performed significantly more trophallaxis with non-nest mates than with nest mates (bias 2.4:1). Hence, workers are able to discriminate nest mates from non-nest mates. Higher rates of trophallaxis between non-nest mates may serve to homogenize the colony odor or may be an appeasement mechanism. Trophallaxis rate and aggression level were not correlated with geographical distance and did not differ within and between two populations separated by several kilometers. Hence, these populations do not represent differentiated supercolonies with clear-cut behavioral boundaries. Overall, the data demonstrate that unicoloniality can evolve despite well-developed nest mate recognition. Reduced levels of aggression might have been favored by the low rate of interactions with foreign workers, high cost of erroneously rejecting nest mates, and low cost of accepting foreign workers.
aggression, discrimination, kin recognition
Web of science
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