Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 12, pp 2569–2584 | Cite as

Cuticular Hydrocarbons of Tetramorium Ants from Central Europe: Analysis of GC-MS Data with Self-Organizing Maps (SOM) and Implications for Systematics

  • Florian M. Steiner
  • Birgit C. Schlick-Steiner
  • Alexej Nikiforov
  • Roland Kalb
  • Robert Mistrik


Cuticular hydrocarbons were extracted from workers of 63 different nests of five species of Tetramorium ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from Austria, Hungary, and Spain. The GC-MS data were classified (data mining) by self-organizing maps (SOM). SOM neurons derived from primary neuron separation were subjected to hierarchical SOM (HSOM) and were grouped to neuron areas on the basis of vicinity in the hexagonal output grid. While primary neuron separation and HSOM resulted in classifications on a level more sensitive than species differences, neuron areas resulted in chemical phenotypes apparently of the order of species. These chemical phenotypes have implications for systematics: while the chemical phenotypes for T. ferox and T. moravicum correspond to morphological determination, in T. caespitum and T. impurum a total of six chemical phenotypes is found. Three hypotheses are discussed to explain this disparity between morphological and chemical classifications, including in particular the possibility of hybridization and the existence of cryptic species. Overall, the GC-MS profiles classified by SOM prove to be a practical alternative to morphological determination (T. ferox, T. moravicum) and indicate the need to revisit systematics (T. caespitum, T. impurum).

Self-organizing maps (SOM) Tetramorium ants Formicidae cuticular hydrocarbons chemical signature gas chromatography-mass spectrometry data mining systematics hybridization cryptic species 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Florian M. Steiner
    • 1
  • Birgit C. Schlick-Steiner
    • 1
  • Alexej Nikiforov
    • 2
  • Roland Kalb
    • 2
  • Robert Mistrik
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of ZoologyUniversity of Agricultural SciencesViennaAustria
  2. 2.Institute of Organic ChemistryUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.HighChem Ltd.BratislavaSlovakia

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