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Reactions by army ant workers to nestmates having had contact with sympatric ant species

Dejean, Alain, Corbara, Bruno
Comptes rendus 2014 v.337 no.11 pp. 642-645
Atta sexdens, Camponotus, Eciton, Pheidole megacephala, Solenopsis saevissima, aggression, invasive species, odors, predation, sympatry, tropics, worker ants, Africa
It was recently shown that Pheidole megacephala colonies (an invasive species originating from Africa) counterattack when raided by the army ant, Eciton burchellii. The subsequent contact permits Pheidole cuticular compounds (that constitute the “colony odour”) to be transferred onto the raiding Eciton, which are then not recognised by their colony-mates and killed. Using a simple method for transferring cuticular compounds, we tested if this phenomenon occurs for Neotropical ants. Eciton workers rubbed with ants from four sympatric species were released among their colony-mates. Individuals rubbed with Solenopsis saevissima or Camponotus blandus workers were attacked, but not those rubbed with Atta sexdens, Pheidole fallax or with colony-mates (control lot). So, the chemicals of certain sympatric ant species, but not others, trigger intra-colonial aggressiveness in Eciton. We conclude that prey-ant chemicals might have played a role in the evolution of army ant predatory behaviour, likely influencing prey specialization in certain cases.