Asymmetry in antennal contacts during trophallaxis in ants

Frasnelli, Elisa and Iakovlev, Ivan and Reznikova, Zhanna (2012) Asymmetry in antennal contacts during trophallaxis in ants. Behavioural Brain Research, 232 (1). pp. 7-12. ISSN 0166-4328

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Abstract

Behavioural and brain left–right asymmetries are a common feature among the animal kingdom. Lateralization
often manifests itself at the population-level with most individuals showing the same direction
of lateral bias. Theoretical model based on evolutionary stable strategy predicts that lateralization at the
population-level is more likely to characterize social rather than solitary species. Empirical data supporting
this hypothesis has been recently obtained in Hymenoptera showing that eusocial honeybees present
an asymmetrical use of the antennae: the right antenna is involved in olfactory learning and present more
olfactory receptors. However, no evidences about the role of antennal asymmetries in social interactions
have been provided so far. Highly social ant species belonging to Formica rufa group are a good model
for investigating natural communication because they are able to pass exact information to their nest
mates. We applied the “binary tree” experimental paradigm, which allowed us to observe different types
of antennal contacts performed by ants out of their nest. To examine possible asymmetrical use of the
right and left antenna, we focused on “feeding” (the simplest) contacts where a “donor” ant is exchanging
food with a “receiver” ant through trophallaxis. We observed a population-level asymmetry, with the
“receiver” ant using the right antenna significantly more often than the left antenna. This study provides
the first evidence of lateralization in antennal contacts in ants, and seems to support the hypothesis of
mathematical models on the evolution of lateralization suggesting that the alignment of lateralization at
the population-level matters in social interactions.

Keywords:ants, lateralization, antennal contacts, communication, trophallaxis, social interactions
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C340 Entomology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:30128
Deposited On:16 Mar 2018 13:48

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