Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 196–204 | Cite as

Absence of Nepotism in Worker–Queen Care in Polygynous Colonies of the Ant Ectatomma tuberculatum

  • L. Zinck
  • N. Châline
  • P. Jaisson


The question of the occurrence of nepotism in insect societies is central to inclusive fitness theory. Here we investigated the existence of nepotism in the facultative polygynous ant Ectatomma tuberculatum because various characteristics of this species may have favored the evolution of nepotistic behavior toward queens. We thus studied worker–queen care toward their mother queen vs. an unrelated unfamiliar queen, to determine if workers cared preferentially for their mother. Although we tried to facilitate the expression of nepotistic behaviors, we did not detect significant nepotism confirming the general trend of an absence of nepotism in social insects. We discuss about the specific causes that can explain the absence of nepotism in E. tuberculatum regarding the particular social organization of this species and its ecological dominance in the mosaic of arboreal ants.


Ants nepotism polygyny queen care grooming 



We thank R. R. Hora and the Laboratório de Mirmecologia, CEPEC/CEPLAC, de Itabuna, Bahia, Brazil, for their great help in colony collection. Research was permitted by the Brazilian Minister of Science and Technology (licence 0107/2004).


  1. Ayasse M, Marlovits T, Tengö T, Taghizadeh T, Francke W (1995) Are there pheromonal dominance signals in the bumblebee Bombus hypnorum L (Hymenoptera, Apidae). Apidologie 26:163–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blatrix R, Jaisson P (2002) Absence of kin discrimination in a ponerine ant. Anim Behav 64:261–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blatrix R, Durand JL, Jaisson P (2000) Task allocation depends on matriline in the ponerine ant Gnamptogenys striatula Mayr. J Insect Behav 13:553–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonavita-Cougourdan A, Clément JL, Lange C (1987) Nestmate recognition: the role of cuticular hydrocarbons in the ant Camponotus vagus Scop. J Entomol Sci 22:1–10Google Scholar
  5. Bonavita-Cougourdan A, Theraulaz G, Bagneres AG, Roux M, Pratte M, Provost E, Clement JL (1991) Cuticular hydrocarbons, social organisation and ovarian development in a polistine wasp: Polistes dominulus christ. Comp Biochem Physiol B Comp Biochem Mol Biol 100:667–680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boomsma JJ, Nielsen J, Sundström L, Oldham NJ, Tentschert J, Petersen HC, Morgan ED (2003) Informational constraints on optimal sex allocation in ants. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100:8799–8804PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Breed MD, Robinson GE, Page RE (1990) Division of labour during honey bee colony defense. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 27:395–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Breed MD, Welch CK, Cruz R (1994) Kin discrimination within honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies: an analysis of the evidence. Behav Processes 33:25–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carlin NF (1989) Discrimination between and within colonies of social insects: Two null hypotheses. Neth J Zool 39:86–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carlin NF, Reeve HK, Cover SP (1993) Kin discrimination and division of labour among matrilines in the polygynous carpenter ant, Camponotus planatus. In: Keller L (ed) Queen number and sociality in insects. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 362–401Google Scholar
  11. Châline N, Arnold G, Papin C, Ratnieks FLW (2003) Patriline differences in emergency queen rearing in the honey bee, Apis mellifera. Insectes Soc 50:234–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Châline N, Martin SJ, Ratnieks FLW (2005) Absence of nepotism toward imprisoned young queens during swarming in the honey bee. Behav Ecol 16:403–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cuvillier-Hot V, Cobb M, Malosse C, Peeters C (2001) Sex, age and ovarian activity affect cuticular hydrocarbons in Diacamma ceylonense, a queenless ant. J Insect Physiol 47:485–493PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. D’Ettorre P, Heinze J (2005) Individual recognition in ant queens. Curr Biol 15:2170–2174PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. D’Ettorre P, Heinze J, Schulz C, Francke W, Ayasse M (2004) Does she smell like a queen? Chemoreception of a cuticular hydrocarbon signal in the ant Pachycondyla inversa. J Exp Biol 207:1085–1091PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dani FR, Foster KR, Zacchi F, Seppä P, Massolo A, Carelli A, Arévalo L, Queller D, Strassmann JE, Turillazzi S (2004) Can cuticular lipids provide sufficient information for within-colony nepotism in wasps. Proc R Soc Lond B 271:745–753CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. DeHeer CJ, Ross KG (1997) Lack of detectable nepotism in multiple-queen colonies of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 40:27–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gilley DC (2003) Absence of nepotism in the harassment of duelling queens by honeybee workers. Proc R Soc Lond B 270:2045–2049CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Good PI (2000) Permutation tests: a practical guide to resampling methods for testing hypotheses. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Gordon DM (1989) Ants distinguish neighbors from strangers. Oecologia 81:198–200Google Scholar
  21. Grafen A (1990) Do animals really recognize kin. Anim Behav 39:42–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hamilton WD (1964) The genetical evolution of social behaviour, I, II. J Theor Biol 7:1–52PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hannonen M, Sundström L (2003) Worker nepotism among polygynous ants. Nature 421:910PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heinze J, Elsishans C, Hölldobler B (1997) No evidence for kin assortment during colony propagation in a polygynous ant. Naturwissenschaften 84:249–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hepper PG (1991) Kin recognition. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  26. Holzer B, Kümmerli R, Keller L, Chapuisat M (2006) Sham nepotism as a result of intrinsic differences in brood viability in ants. Proc R Soc Lond B 273:2049–2052CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hora RR, Vilela E, Fénéron R, Pezon A, Fresneau D, Delabie J (2005) Facultative polygyny in Ectatomma tuberculatum (Formicidae, Ectatomminae). Insectes Soc 52:194–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Isingrini M, Lenoir A, Jaisson P (1985) Preimaginal learning as a basis of colony-brood recognition in the ant Cataglyphis cursor. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 82:8545–8547PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jaisson P (1973) L’imprégnation dans l’ontogenèse du comportement de soins aux cocons chez les formicines. In Proceedings of the 7th International Congress of the IUSSI, London, United Kingdom, pp 176–181Google Scholar
  30. Jaisson P (1980) Les colonies mixtes plurispécifiques: un modèle pour l’étude des fourmis. Biologie-Ecologie Méditerranéenne 7:163–166Google Scholar
  31. Keller L (1997) Indiscriminate altruism: unduly nice parents and siblings. Trends Ecol Evol 12:99–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Keller L, Passera L (1993) Incest avoidance, fluctuating asymmetry, and the consequences of inbreeding in Iridomyrmex humilis, an ant with multiple queen colonies. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 33:191–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kirchner WH, Arnold G (2001) Intracolonial kin discrimination in honeybees: do bees dance with their supersisters. Anim Behav 61:597–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lahav S, Soroker V, Hefetz A, Vander Meer RK (1999) Direct behavioral evidence for hydrocarbons as ant recognition discriminators. Naturwissenschaften 86:246–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lehner PN (1996) Handbook of ethological methods. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  36. Liebig J, Peeters C, Oldham NJ, Markstadter C, Hölldobler B (2000) Are variations in cuticular hydrocarbons of queens and workers a reliable signal of fertility in the ant Harpegnathos saltator. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97:4124–4131PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Monnin T, Malosse C, Peeters C (1998) Solid-phase microextraction and cuticular hydrocarbon differences related to reproductive activity in queenless ant Dinoponera quadriceps. J Chem Ecol 24:473–490, [Erratum: Aug 1998, 24: 1423]CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Oldroyd BP, Rinderer TE, Buco SM (1991) Honey bees dance with their super-sisters. Anim Behav 42:121–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ortius D, Heinze J (1999) Fertility signaling in queens of a North American ant. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 45:151–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Osborne KE, Oldroyd BP (1999) Possible causes of reproductive dominance during emergency queen rearing by honeybees. Anim Behav 58:267–272PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Queller DC, Strassmann JE (2002) The many selves of social insects. Science 296:311–313PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ratnieks FLW, Reeve HK (1992) Conflict in single-queen hymenopteran societies: the structure of conflict and processes that reduce conflict in advanced eusocial species. J Theor Biol 158:33–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ratnieks FLW, Foster KR, Wenseleers T (2006) Conflict resolution in insect societies. Annu Rev Entomol 51:581–608PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reeve HK (1989) The evolution of conspecific acceptance thresholds. Am Nat 133:407–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Strassmann JE, Seppä P, Queller DC (2000) Absence of within-colony kin discrimination: foundresses of the social wasp, Polistes carolina, do not prefer their own larvae. Naturwissenschaften 87:266–269PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tarpy DR, Fletcher DJC (1998) Effects of relatedness on queen competition within honey bee colonies. Anim Behav 55:537–543PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tarpy DR, Gilley DC, Seeley TD (2004) Levels of selection in a social insect: a review of conflict and cooperation during honey bee (Apis mellifera) queen replacement. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 55:513–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Thomas ML, Parry LJ, Allan RA, Elgar MA (1999) Geographic affinity, cuticular hydrocarbons and colony recognition in the Australian meat ant Iridomyrmex purpureus. Naturwissenschaften 86:87–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Vander Meer RK, Morel L (1998) Nestmate recognition in ants. In: Vander Meer RK, Breed M, Winston M, Espelie KE (eds) Pheromone communication in social insects. Westview, Boulder, CO, pp 79–103Google Scholar
  50. Wagner D, Tissot M, Cuevas W, Gordon DM (2000) Harvester ants utilize cuticular hydrocarbons in nestmate recognition. J Chem Ecol 26:2245–2257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wenseleers T (2007) Nepotism absent in insect societies—or is it. Mol Ecol 16:3063–3065PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zinck L, Jaisson P, Hora RR, Denis D, Poteaux C, Doums C (2007) The role of breeding system on ant ecological dominance: genetic analysis of Ectatomma tuberculatum. Behav Ecol 18:701–708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zinck L, Hora RR, Châline N, Jaisson P (2008) Low intra-specific aggression level in the polydomous and facultative polygynous ant Ectatomma tuberculatum. Entomol Exp App 126:211–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire d’Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée UMR CNRS 7153Université Paris 13VilletaneuseFrance

Personalised recommendations