How to coexist with fire ants: The roles of behaviour and cuticular compounds


Because territoriality is energetically costly, territorial animals frequently respond less aggressively to neighbours than to strangers, a reaction known as the “dear enemy phenomenon” (DEP). The contrary, the “nasty neighbour effect” (NNE), occurs mainly for group-living species defending resource-based territories. We studied the relationships between supercolonies of the pest fire ant Solenopsis saevissima and eight ant species able to live in the vicinity of its nests plus Eciton burchellii, an army ant predator of other ants. The workers from all of the eight ant species behaved submissively when confronted with S. saevissima (dominant) individuals, whereas the contrary was never true. Yet, S. saevissima were submissive towards E. burchellii workers. Both DEP and NNE were observed for the eight ant species, with submissive behaviours less frequent in the case of DEP. To distinguish what is due to chemical cues from what can be attributed to behaviour, we extracted cuticular compounds from all of the nine ant species compared and transferred them onto a number of S. saevissima workers that were then confronted with untreated conspecifics. The cuticular compounds from three species, particularly E. burchellii, triggered greater aggressiveness by S. saevissima workers, while those from the other species did not.

Auteurs, date et publication :

Auteurs Olivier Roux , Vivien Rossi , Régis Céréghino , Arthur Compin , Jean-Michel Martin , Alain Dejean

Publication : Behavioural Processes

Date : 2013

Volume : 98

Pages : 51–57


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