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Effect of time on colony odour stability in the ant Formica exsecta.

Authors
  • Martin, S J1
  • Shemilt, S
  • Drijfhout, F P
  • 1 Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK. [email protected]
Type
Published Article
Journal
Die Naturwissenschaften
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2012
Volume
99
Issue
4
Pages
327–331
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s00114-012-0898-0
PMID: 22358182
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Among social insects, maintaining a distinct colony profile allows individuals to distinguish easily between nest mates and non-nest mates. In ants, colony-specific profiles can be encoded within their cuticular hydrocarbons, and these are influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. Using nine monogynous Formica exsecta ant colonies, we studied the stability of their colony-specific profiles at eight time points over a 4-year period. We found no significant directional change in any colony profile, suggesting that genetic factors are maintaining this stability. However, there were significant short-term effects of season that affected all colony profiles in the same direction. Despite these temporal changes, no significant change in the profile variation within colonies was detected: each colony's profile responded in similar manner between seasons, with nest mates maintaining closely similar profiles, distinct from other colonies. These findings imply that genetic factors may help maintain the long-term stability of colony profile, but environmental factors can influence the profiles over shorter time periods. However, environmental factors do not contribute significantly to the maintenance of diversity among colonies, since all colonies were affected in a similar way.

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