University of Oulu

Peignier M, Pokorny T, Heinze J, Lindgren R, Helanterä H and Schultner E (2019) Honesty of Larval Begging Signals Covaries With Colony Kin Structure in Formica Ants. Front. Ecol. Evol. 7:398. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00398

Honesty of larval begging signals covaries with colony kin structure in Formica ants

Saved in:
Author: Peignier, Mélissa1,2,3; Pokorny, Tamara4; Heinze, Jürgen4;
Organizations: 1Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
2Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, Hanko, Finland
3Comparative Cognition, Messerli Research Institute, Vetmeduni Vienna, Medical University of Vienna, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
4Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, Biologie I, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
5Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.7 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Frontiers Media, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-01-28


Social insects live in highly complex societies with efficient communication systems. Begging is one display commonly used by offspring to signal their nutritional state, however begging behavior has received very little attention in social insects. Theory predicts that begging can be either an honest (i.e., honest-signaling strategy) or a dishonest (i.e., scrambling competition) signal of need, with dishonest signals expected to be more likely when relatedness within the group is low. To investigate the presence and honesty of begging, as well as the nature of the involved signals, we used a comparative approach with four species of the ant genus Formica known to differ in the degree of intra-colony relatedness. We investigated the behavior of starved and non-starved larvae of F. aquilonia, F. pressilabris (both low intra-colony relatedness), F. exsecta (intermediate relatedness), and F. fusca (high relatedness). In addition, we assessed the attraction of conspecific workers toward odors extracted from these two classes of larvae and analyzed the larval cuticular hydrocarbon profiles. We found that in F. fusca and F. exsecta, larvae signaled significantly more when starved. In contrast, larvae of F. aquilonia signaled significantly more when they were non-starved, while there was no significant difference in the behavior of starved vs. non-starved larvae in F. pressilabris. Our results show that workers were not preferentially attracted to the odor of starved larvae, and we also did not detect any differences between the cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of starved and non-starved larvae. Overall, this study demonstrates among species variation in larval hunger signaling in Formica ants, and encourages further studies to confirm the link between kin structure variation and the honesty of begging signals.

see all

Series: Frontiers in ecology and evolution
ISSN: 2296-701X
ISSN-E: 2296-701X
ISSN-L: 2296-701X
Volume: 7
Article number: 398
DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00398
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This work was funded by the Academy of Finland (Grants #251337 and #284666 to the Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions), Kone Foundation (HH) and Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth foundation (HH).
Copyright information: © 2019 Peignier, Pokorny, Heinze, Lindgren, Helanterä and Schultner. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.