Trail Pheromone of the Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile (Mayr) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

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Date: Sept. 20, 2012
From: PLoS ONE(Vol. 7, Issue 9)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Document Type: Report
Length: 6,724 words
Lexile Measure: 1530L

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Author(s): Dong-Hwan Choe 1 , * , David B. Villafuerte 2 , Neil D. Tsutsui 1


The ability of social insects to coordinate individual behaviors for colony-level tasks is central to their ecological dominance in most terrestrial ecosystems [1]. In the social insects, the intra-colony communication mediated by semiochemicals plays an important role in organizing collective activities, such as defense, reproduction, foraging, and nest relocation [2], [3]. The trail pheromones of ants, in particular, are known to play a critical role in foraging and nest relocation processes, by efficiently leading colony members to prospective food sources or nesting sites [4]-[7].

The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile (Mayr), has been spread by human commerce from its native South America to subtropical and Mediterranean-climate regions throughout the world [8], [9], competitively displacing native ants in its introduced range [10], [11]. In addition to its large colony size and occupation of spatially separated nests, the highly effective mass recruitment system of the Argentine ant has been recognized as one of the major mechanisms facilitating its interspecific competitive ability. For example, Argentine ant workers recruit their nestmates to food resources more quickly than do native competitors [12], [13]. Furthermore, following environmental disturbances, such as flooding, Argentine ant workers relocate their entire colony to suitable nest sites via mass recruitment more quickly than other native ant species [14]. Finally, during intraspecific aggressive encounters between Argentine ant supercolonies, enormous numbers of workers can be recruited to conflict zones, resulting in considerable worker mortality [15].

The trail pheromone of the Argentine ant has been the focus of numerous studies because of its significance in the species' mass recruitment behavior. Cavill et al. first isolated and characterized (Z)-9-hexadecenal from crude extracts of Argentine ants (whole body, dissected ventral gland) using a series of column chromatography and microchemical reactions [16], [17]. Based on the evidence that (Z)-9-hexadecenal was a ventral gland secretion, and that it strongly attracted Argentine ant workers in a multi-choice olfactometer, Cavill et al. concluded that (Z)-9-hexadecenal might be a component of the trail pheromone complex of the Argentine ant, but conservatively referred to it as "a general aggregation factor" [16], [17]. Since then, however, many researchers have primarily focused on (Z)-9-hexadecenal in studies of Argentine ant trail pheromones [18]-[22]. The concept of (Z)-9-hexadecenal as the key component of Argentine ant trails has become broadly adopted because the ants follow trails drawn with low concentrations of (Z)-9-hexadecenal. Furthermore, with the readily availability of the synthetic standard from commercial sources, some researchers have explored the possibility of using synthetic (Z)-9-hexadecenal to develop practical management strategies for invasive Argentine ant populations. For example, one study showed that synthetic (Z)-9-hexadecenal increased the consumption of sugar-based liquid baits by Argentine ants when it was mixed with the baits [23]. Similarly, several field studies have been conducted in Hawaii and Japan to test if synthetic (Z)-9-hexadecenal disrupts trail formation and subsequent foraging activity of Argentine ants [24]-[28].

Trail pheromones of many species of ants are likely to have multiple chemical components...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A498258498