Morpho-functional comparison of the Dufour gland in the female castes of the Amazon ant Polyergus rufescens (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)
Grasso, Donato A. × Mori, Alessandra Le Moli, Francesco Billen, Johan #
Zoomorphology vol:124 issue:3 pages:149-153
The Dufour gland is crucially involved in main aspects of the parasite habit of the slave-making ant Polyergus rufescens, i.e. slave-raids and host colony usurpation. Workers use chemicals from this gland as recruitment signals during raid organization, while newly-mated queens use its secretion to appease residents during host nest invasion. Here, we report a comparison of the general morphology and fine structure of the Dufour gland in the female castes of P. rufescens: queens, ergatogynes (intermediate forms), and workers. The analysis clearly shows the link between gland structure and its behavioural role in queens and workers. In particular, queens present a hypertrophied gland with an extended lumen and a thin epithelium no more active in secretory function. This is consistent with the fact that usurper queens use the Dufour gland contents only during the short phase of host nest penetration. Contrary to adult queens, the cytoplasmic organization of the Dufour gland epithelium of raiders is typical for a tissue with secretory activity (abundance of mitochondria, free ribosomes, strands of smooth endoplasmic reticulum and a Golgi apparatus). This is consistent with the continuous raiding activity performed by workers throughout their adult life. The biology of ergatogynes is still an enigmatic matter. Their Dufour gland is intermediate in shape and size between that of queens and workers. It presents a fairly thick epithelium with features that are typical of a quite active secretory tissue.