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Association of olfactory learning with cuticular hydrocarbon discrimination in the ant Camponotus floridanus

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Communication amongst eusocial insect is key to their success. Ants rely on signaling to mediate many different functions within a colony such as policing and nest mate recognition. Camponotus floridanus uses chemosensory signaling in the form of cuticular hydrocarbons to

Communication amongst eusocial insect is key to their success. Ants rely on signaling to mediate many different functions within a colony such as policing and nest mate recognition. Camponotus floridanus uses chemosensory signaling in the form of cuticular hydrocarbons to regulate these functions. Each cuticular hydrocarbon profile contains numerous hydrocarbons, however it is yet to be seen if Camponotus floridanus can discriminate between linear hydrocarbons of similar length. Individual specimens were conditioned in three different ways: 5 conditioning with high concentration of sugar water (1;1 ratio), 1 conditioning with high concentration of sugar water, and 5 conditioning with low concentration of sugar water (1;4). Two linear hydrocarbons were use, C23 and C24, with C23 always being the conditioned stimulus. Specimens who were conditioned 5 times with high concentration of sugar water were the only group to show a significant response to the conditioned stimulus with a p-value of .008 and exhibited discrimination behavior 46% of the time. When compared 5 conditioning with high concentration to the other two testing conditioning groups, 1 conditioning with high concentration produced an insignificant p-value of .13 was obtained whereas when comparing it with 5 conditioning low concentration of sugar a significant p-value of .0132 was obtained. This indiciates that Camponotus floridanus are capable of discrimination however must be conditioned with high concentration of sugar water, while number of conditioning is insignificant.

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2014-05

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Behavioral and nutritional regulation of colony growth in the desert leafcutter ant Acromyrmex versicolor

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Like individual organisms, complex social groups are able to maintain predictable trajectories of growth, from initial colony foundation to mature reproductively capable units. They do so while simultaneously responding flexibly to variation in nutrient availability and intake. Leafcutter ant colonies

Like individual organisms, complex social groups are able to maintain predictable trajectories of growth, from initial colony foundation to mature reproductively capable units. They do so while simultaneously responding flexibly to variation in nutrient availability and intake. Leafcutter ant colonies function as tri-trophic systems, in which the ants harvest vegetation to grow a fungus that, in turn, serves as food for the colony. Fungal growth rates and colony worker production are interdependent, regulated by nutritional and behavioral feedbacks. Fungal growth and quality are directly affected by worker foraging decisions, while worker production is, in turn, dependent on the amount and condition of the fungus. In this dissertation, I first characterized the growth relationship between the workers and the fungus of the desert leafcutter ant Acromyrmex versicolor during early stages of colony development, from colony foundation by groups of queens through the beginnings of exponential growth. I found that this relationship undergoes a period of slow growth and instability when workers first emerge, and then becomes allometrically positive. I then evaluated how mass and element ratios of resources collected by the ants are translated into fungus and worker population growth, and refuse, finding that colony digestive efficiency is comparable to digestive efficiencies of other herbivorous insects and ruminants. To test how colonies behaviorally respond to perturbations of the fungus garden, I quantified activity levels and task performance of workers in colonies with either supplemented or diminished fungus gardens, and found that colonies adjusted activity and task allocation in response to the fungus garden size. Finally, to identify possible forms of nutrient limitation, I measured how colony performance was affected by changes in the relative amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and phosphorus available in the resources used to grow the fungus garden. From this experiment, I concluded that colony growth is primarily carbohydrate-limited.

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2011

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Nestmate Recognition in Camponotus is Affected by the Structure of Added Hydrocarbons

Description

Olfactory discrimination tasks can provide useful information about how olfaction may have evolved by demonstrating which types of compounds animals will detect and respond to. Ants discriminate between nestmates and non-nestmates by using olfaction to detect the cuticular hydrocarbons on

Olfactory discrimination tasks can provide useful information about how olfaction may have evolved by demonstrating which types of compounds animals will detect and respond to. Ants discriminate between nestmates and non-nestmates by using olfaction to detect the cuticular hydrocarbons on other ants, and Camponotus floridanus have particularly clear and aggressive responses to non-nestmates. A new method of adding hydrocarbons to ants, the “Snow Globe” method was further optimized and tested on C. floridanus. It involves adding hydrocarbons and a solvent to a vial of water, vortexing it, suspending hydrocarbon droplets throughout the solution, and then dipping a narcotized ant in. It is hoped this method can evenly coat ants in hydrocarbon. Ants were treated with heptacosane (C27), nonacosane (C29), hentriacontane (C31), a mixture of C27/C29/C31, 2-methyltriacontane (2MeC30), S-3-methylhentriacontane (SMeC31), and R-3-methylhentriacontane (RMeC31). These were chosen to see how ants reacted in a nestmate recognition context to methyl-branched hydrocarbons, R and S enantiomers, and to multiple added alkanes. Behavior assays were performed on treated ants, as well as two untreated controls, a foreign ant and a nestmate ant. There were 15 replicates of each condition, using 15 different queenright colonies. The Snow Globe method successfully transfers hydrocarbons, as confirmed by solid phase microextraction (SPME) done on treated ants, and the behavior assay data shows the foreign control, SMeC31, and the mixture of C27/29/31 were all statistically significant in their differences from the native control. The multiple alkane mixture received a significant response while single alkanes did not, which supports the idea that larger variations in hydrocarbon profile are needed for an ant to be perceived as foreign. The response to SMeC31 shows C. floridanus can respond during nestmate recognition to hydrocarbons that are not naturally occurring, and it indicates the nestmate recognition process may simply be responding to any compounds not found in the colony profile and rather than detecting particular foreign compounds.

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2021-05