Decision rules for egg recognition are related to functional roles and chemical cues in the queenless ant Dinoponera quadriceps

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The capacity to distinguish colony members from strangers is a key component in social life. In social insects, this extends to the brood and involves discrimination of queen eggs. Chemical substances communicate colony affiliation for both adults and brood; thus, in theory, all colony members should be able to recognize fellow nestmates. In this study, we investigate the ability of Dinoponera quadriceps workers to discriminate nestmate and non-nestmate eggs based on cuticular hydrocarbon composition. We analyzed whether cuticular hydrocarbons present on the eggs provide cues of discrimination. The results show that egg recognition in D. quadriceps is related to both age and the functional role of workers. Brood care workers were able to distinguish nestmate from non-nestmate eggs, while callow and forager workers were unable to do so.

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We thank Margaret Couvillon, Hans Kelstrup, and anonymous referees for the comments on the manuscript and suggestions. We also are grateful to Isabel C. Turatti for the chemical analysis of eggs. Fapesp and CNPq support the research of authors. The experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.

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Correspondence to Ivelize C. Tannure-Nascimento or Fabio S. Nascimento.

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Tannure-Nascimento, I.C., Nascimento, F.S., Dantas, J.O. et al. Decision rules for egg recognition are related to functional roles and chemical cues in the queenless ant Dinoponera quadriceps . Naturwissenschaften 96, 857–861 (2009) doi:10.1007/s00114-009-0535-8

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  • Dinoponera quadriceps
  • Functional roles
  • Egg recognition