Journal of Insect Behavior vol:23 issue:3 pages:236-249
Approximately 150 ant species are facultatively or obligately queenless whereby mated workers assume the role of the queen. In many of these species a reproductive dominance hierarchy is established by way of aggressive interactions. Top-ranking workers, which are typically the most fecund, acquire a characteristic cuticular hydrocarbon profile. We studied the temporal dynamics of this chemical change and associated interplay with observed aggressive interactions in an experimentally orphaned colony of the facultatively queenless ant Gnamptogenys striatula. Our observations and chemical analyses demonstrate that chemical fertility signals played a major role in the establishment of a dominance hierarchy and aggression settled dominance relationships only when ants had identical hydrocarbon profiles. Moreover, individuals with a higher potential fertility, in this experiment reflected in a higher ovariole number, are shown to have a better chance of becoming a reproductive.