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Worker policing by egg eating in the ponerine ant Pachycondyla inversa

D'Ettorre, P., Heinze, J. and Ratnieks, F.L.W. (2004) Worker policing by egg eating in the ponerine ant Pachycondyla inversa. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B: Biological Sciences, 271 (1546). pp. 1427-1434. ISSN 0962-8452


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We investigated worker policing by egg eating in the ponerine ant Pachycondyla inversa, a species with morphologically distinct queens and workers. Colonies were split into one half with the queen and one half without. Workers in queenless colony fragments started laying unfertilized male eggs after three weeks. Worker-laid eggs and queen-laid eggs were introduced into five other queenright colonies with a single queen and three colonies with multiple queens, and their fate was observed for 30 min. Significantly more worker-laid eggs (range of 35–62%, mean of 46%) than queen-laid eggs (range of 5–31%, mean of 15%) were eaten by workers in single-queen colonies, and the same trend was seen in multiple-queen colonies. This seems to be the first well-documented study of ants with a distinct caste polymorphism to show that workers kill worker-laid eggs in preference to queen-laid eggs. Chemical analyses showed that the surfaces of queen-laid and worker-laid eggs have different chemical profiles as a result of different relative proportions of several hydrocarbons. Such differences might provide the information necessary for differential treatment of eggs. One particular alkane, 3,11-dimeC27, was significantly more abundant on the surfaces of queen-laid eggs. This substance is also the most abundant compound on the cuticles of egg layers.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2004 The Royal Society
Keywords: reproductive conflicts, worker policing, egg discrimination, Pachycondyla inversa
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > School of Biological Sciences (Sheffield) > Department of Animal and Plant Sciences (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2005
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2014 07:03
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1098/rspb.2004.2742
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/302

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