Regulation of reproduction in a queenless ant: Aggression, pheromones and reduction in conflict

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Authors:
  • Virginie Cuvillier-Hot
  • Raghavendra Gadagkar
  • Christian Peeters
  • Matthew Cobb


In the monogynous queenless ant Diacamma ceylonense, the future reproductive (future gamergate) is very aggressive towards infertile workers during the first days of her adult life. Overt aggression disappears at about three weeks, when the future gamergate begins to lay male-destined eggs and is ready to mate. Over the same period, her cuticular hydrocarbon profile alters, changing from a chemical signature similar to that of a sterile worker towards that of a gamergate. In nature, these behavioural and chemical changes will coincide with a reduction in conflict within the nest: faced with a virgin future gamergate, infertile workers have an interest in producing male-destined eggs; however, once the gamergate produces female eggs, they have an interest in rearing her offspring. This demonstration of a shift from physical inhibition to chemical signalling is interpreted in terms of sociogenetic theory, the role of cuticular hydrocarbons as an indicator of fertility in insects and the fact that the regulation of reproduction in Diacamma involves mechanisms redolent of both queenless and queenright ant species.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1295-1300
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1497
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2002