Chemical based communication and its role in decision making within the social insects

Jones, Sam (2014) Chemical based communication and its role in decision making within the social insects. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates chemical communication and decision making in a stingless bee (Tetragonisca angustula) and two species of ants (Lasius flavus and L. niger). Complex
chemical signalling and seemingly elaborate behavioural patterns based upon decisions made by individuals of a colony have facilitated the evolution of social living in these insects. This thesis investigates two important features of social living that involve these features: nest mate recognition and navigation. The first part of this thesis (Chapter 3 and Appendix 3) investigates nestmate recognition and nest defence in the Neotropical stingless bee T. angustula. In Chapter 3, two mechanisms are investigated which could potentially facilitate the extremely efficient nest mate recognition system, previously demonstrated in this bee species. Both are found to play no role which will enable further work to focus on the few remaining possibilities.

The second part of this thesis (chapters 4-6) focuses on navigational decision making in two common British ant species with contrasting ecologies. Chapter 4 investigates how L. niger foragers adapt to foraging at night when the visual cues, so important to these ants for diurnal foraging, are unavailable. This study showed that nocturnal foraging is achieved in these ants by increasing trail pheromone deposition while concomitantly switching to a greater reliance on these cues to navigate. Chapter 5 contrasts the navigational strategies and capabilities of L. niger with another Lasius ant species, L. flavus, and demonstrates how these species can flexibly switch dependency between available navigational cues to cope with foraging within a fluxional ecological environment. Finally, Chapter 6 focuses on the glandular components and trail pheromone of L. flavus by measuring behavioural responses to glandular constituents and identifying the glandular source of the trail pheromone. The aim was to also identify the trail pheromone(s) but due to time constraints this was not possible. However, a new methodology that simplifies the process of identifying trail pheromone components was developed and is described. Furthermore, this study has laid the foundations for further work to establish if the compound prevalent in the Dufour glands’ of L. flavus does indeed serve as an antibacterial agent within the humid nest environment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Biology and Environmental Science
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology > QL0360 Invertebrates > QL0434 Arthropoda > QL0463 Insects
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 09 May 2014 11:38
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015 13:58
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/48262

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