Two independent mechanisms of egg recognition in worker Formica fusca ants

Helanterä, Heikke and Ratnieks, Francis L W (2009) Two independent mechanisms of egg recognition in worker Formica fusca ants. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 63 (4). pp. 573-580. ISSN 0340-5443

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Informational constraints can be an important limitation on the accuracy of recognition. One potential constraint is the use of recognition information from the same sources in multiple discriminatory contexts. Worker wood ants, Formica fusca, discriminate eggs based on their maternal sources of origin in two main contexts: recognition of eggs laid by nestmate versus non-nestmate queens and recognition of worker-laid versus queen-laid eggs. We manipulated the experience of F. fusca workers in laboratory colonies to both worker-laid and queen-laid eggs by transferring eggs between colonies in order to investigate whether these two contexts of egg discrimination are independent. Experience of non-nestmate queen-laid eggs significantly increased worker acceptance of both familiar (18% accepted) and unfamiliar (10%) queen-laid eggs compared to control workers without experience of eggs other than those laid by their own colony's queen (2%). In contrast, worker acceptance of worker-laid eggs was not affected by variation in the egg experience of workers (14% in workers from control colonies exposed only to eggs from their own colony's queen versus 19% and 17% in workers from colonies which had received eggs laid by either a non-nestmate queen or nestmate workers, respectively). Our results suggest that these two recognition contexts do not strongly constrain each other and are different in their ontogeny. In particular, worker-laid eggs are universally discriminated against by workers from colonies with a queen whatever the egg experience of the workers, while non-nestmate queen-laid eggs are strongly discriminated against only by workers without experience of eggs laid by more than one queen.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Francis Ratnieks
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:28
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2012 15:47
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