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Biogenic amines are associated with worker task but not patriline in the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior

Smith, Adam R., Muscedere, Mario L., Seid, Marc A., Traniello, James F. A., Hughes, William O. H.
Journal of comparative physiology 2013 v.199 no.12 pp. 1117-1127
Acromyrmex echinatior, body size, brain, dopamine, genotype, leaf-cutting ants, octopamine, serotonin, social structure, waste management
Division of labor among eusocial insect workers is a hallmark of advanced social organization, but its underlying neural mechanisms are not well understood. We investigated whether differences in whole-brain levels of the biogenic amines dopamine (DA), serotonin (5HT), and octopamine (OA) are associated with task specialization and genotype in similarly sized and aged workers of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior, a polyandrous species in which genotype correlates with worker task specialization. We compared amine levels of foragers and waste management workers to test for an association with worker task, and young in-nest workers across patrilines to test for a genetic influence on brain amine levels. Foragers had higher levels of DA and OA and a higher OA:5HT ratio than waste management workers. Patrilines did not significantly differ in amine levels or their ratios, although patriline affected worker body size, which correlated with amine levels despite the small size range sampled. Levels of all three amines were correlated within individuals in both studies. Among patrilines, mean levels of DA and OA, and OA and 5HT were also correlated. Our results suggest that differences in biogenic amines could regulate worker task specialization, but may be not be significantly affected by genotype.