Do Odontomachus brunneus nestmates request for help and are taken care of when caught?


  • Luiz Carlos Santos Junior Universidade Estadual de Mato Grosso do Sul- Centro de Estudos em Recursos Naturais (CERNA), Laboratório de Ecologia Comportamental (LABECO), Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil
  • Emerson Pereira Silva Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados (UFGD) –Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil
  • William Fernando Antonialli-Junior Universidade Estadual de Mato Grosso do Sul- Centro de Estudos em Recursos Naturais (CERNA), Laboratório de Ecologia Comportamental (LABECO), Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil



Poneromorph, Rescuers, Intraspecific Recognition, Rescue


In social insects, situations can arise that threaten an individual or an entire colony. When the call for help goes out, different behavioral responses are elicited by signals emitted from nestmates. In ants, the response can be one of redemptive behavior by the worker receiving it. However, little is known about the evolution of this behavior and in which group of ants it manifests. Therefore, this study investigates whether workers of Odontomachus brunneus Patton can act as rescuers, able to detect and respond to calls for help from nestmates. Laboratory experiments were carried out in which the legs of ants were trapped by tape, simulating capture by a predator. Nearby were nestmates able to receive and respond to a request for help. Two experiments were performed: 1. Calls for help were made at different distances, in order to test the response latency. 2. Evaluation of whether rescuers would respond differently to calls for help from nestmates, non-nestmates of the same species, and ants of another species. Finally, evaluation was made of the behaviors of the rescuers when they responded to requests for help from nestmates and ants of another species. It could be concluded from the results that O. brunneus workers respond to signals emitted by workers who may have been captured by a potential predator, prompting the performance of behaviors related to rescue attempts. The signals involved appear to have an optimal range and are species-specific. When exposed to a capture situation, this species transmits audible signals by stridulation, so it is possible that this type of signal may be involved, in addition to chemical signaling.


Metrics Loading ...


Boch R, Shearer DA (1971) Chemical releasers of alarm behaviour in the honey-bee, Apis mellifera. J. Insect Physiol 17: 2277-2285

Breed MD, Guzmán-Novoa E, Hunt GJ (2004) Defensive behavior of honey bees: organisation, genetics, and comparison with other bees. Ann Rev Entomol 49: 271–298

Breed MD, Robinson GE, Page RE-Jr. (1990) Division of labor during honeybee colony defense. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 27: 395–401

Beponis LM, O'Dea RE, Ohl VA, Ryan MP, Backwell PRY, Binning SA, Haff TM (2014) Cleaning up after a meal: the consequences of prey disposal for pit‐building antlion larvae. Ethology 120: 873–880

Bossert WH, Wilson EO (1963) The analysis of olfactory communication among animals. J. Theor Biol 5: 443-469

Blomquist GJ, Bagnères AG. (2010) Insect hydrocarbons biology, biochemistry, and chemical ecology. Cambridge University Press, New York, p 528

Bruschini C, Cervo R, Turillazzi S (2008) Nesting habit and alarm pheromones in Polistes gallicus (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). J Insect Behav 21: 123-129

Chiu YK, Mankin RW, Lin CC (2011) Context-dependent stridulatory responses of Leptogenys kitteli (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) to social, prey, and disturbance stimuli. Ann Entomol Soc Am 104: 1012–1020

Czechowski W, Godzińska EJ, Kozłowski MW (2002) Rescue behavior shown by workers of Formica sanguinea Latr., F. fusca L. and F. cinerea (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in response to their nestmates caught by an ant lion larva. Ann Zool 52: 423–431

Crewe RM, Blum MS, Collingwood, CA (1972) Comparative analysis of alarm pheromones in the ant genus Crematogaster. Comp. Biochem. Physiol 43: 703-716

Duhoo T, Durand JL, Hollis KL, Nowbahari E (2017) Organization of rescue behaviour sequences in ants, Cataglyphis cursor, reflects goal-directedness, plasticity and memory. Behav Proc 139: 12–18

Errard C, Hefetz A, Jaisson P (2006) Social discrimination tuning in ants: template formation and chemical similarity. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 59: 353–363

Frank ET, Schmitt T, Hovestadt T, Mitesser O, Stiegler J, Linsenmair KE (2017) Saving the injured: rescue behavior in the termite-hunting ant Megaponera analis. Sci Adv 3: e1602187

Frank ET, Wehrhahn M, Linsenmair KE. (2018). Wound treatment and selective help in a termite-hunting ant. Proc R Soc B 285: 1-8

Grasso DAT, Wenseleers T, Mori A, Moli F, Billen J (2000) Thelytokous worker reproduction and lack of Wolbachia infection in the harvesting ant Messor capitatus. Ethol Ecol Evol 12: 309–314

Golden TMJ, Hill PS (2016) The evolution of stridulatory communication in ants, revisited. Insectes Soc 63:309-319

Gotelli NJ (1996) Ant community structure: effects of predatory ant lions. Ecology 77: 630–638

Hernández JV, Lopez H, Jaffé K (2002) Nestmate recognition signals of the leaf cutting ant Atta laevigata. J Insect Physi 48: 287-295

Hölldobler B, Taylor RW. (1983) A behavioral study of the primitive ant, Nothomyrmecia macrops Clark. Insectes Coc 30: 384-401

Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, p 746

Hollis KL (2017) Ants and antlions: the impact of ecology, coevolution and learning on an insect predatory prey relationship. Behav Proc 139: 4–11

Hollis KL, Nowbahari E (2013-a) A comparative analysis of precision rescue behavior in sand-dwelling ants. Anim Behav 85: 537–544

Hollis KL, Nowbahari E (2013-b) Toward a behavioral ecology of rescue behavior. Evol Psychol 11: 647–664

Howard RW, Blomquist GJ (2005) Ecological, behavioral, and biochemical aspects of insect hydrocarbons. Annu Rev Entomol 50: 371–393

Hollis KL, Harrsch FA, Nowbahari E (2015) Ants vs. antlions: an insect model for studying the role of learned and hard-wired behavior in coevolution. Learning Motivation 50: 68–82

Hou C, Kaspari M, Zanden HBV, Gillooly J.F (2010). Energetic basis of colonial living in social insects. Proc. Natl Acad Sci 107: 3634-3638

Jaffé K, Marcuse M (1983) Nestmate recognition and territorial behaviour in the ant Odontornachus bauri Emery (Formicidae: Ponerinae). Ins Soc 30: 466-481

Jeanne RL (1991) The swarm-founding Polistinae,. In: Ross KG, Mathews R.W. (eds) The social biology of wasps. Itaca, Comstock, p 191-231

Lahav S, Soroker V, Hefetz A, Vander Meer RK (1999) Direct behavioral evidence for hydrocarbons as ant recognition discriminators. Naturwissenschaften 86: 246–249

Li J, Wang Z, Tan K, Qu Y, Nieh JC (2014) Effects of natural and synthetic alarm pheromone and individual pheromone components on foraging behaviour of the giant Asian honey bee, Apisdorsata. J Exp Biol 217: 3512-3518

Lenoir A, Hefetz A, Simon T, Soroker V ( 2001) Comparative dynamics of gestalt odour formation in two ant species Camponotus fellah and Aphaenogaster senilis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Physiol Entomol 26: 275–283

Markl H, Hölldobler B (1978) Recruitment and food-retrieving behavior in Novomessor (Formicidae, Hymenoptera): II vibration signals. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 4: 183–216

Markl, H (1965) Stridulation in leaf-cutting ants. Science 149: 1392-1393

Markl H (1973) The evolution of stridulatory communication in ants. P Int Cong IUSSI, London, 7: 258-265

Miler K (2016) Moribund ants do not call for help. PLoSOne 11: e0151925

Morse RA, Laigo FM.(1969) Apis dorsata in the Philippines. Assoc Entomol, Phillip 1: 1-96

Morgan ED, Nascimento RR, Keegans SJ, Billen J (1999) Comparative study of mandibular gland secretions of workers of ponerine ants. J Chem Ecol 25: 1395–1409

Nowbahari E, Amirault C, Hollis KL (2016) Rescue of newborn ants by older Cataglyphis cursor adult workers. Anim Cogn 19: 543–553

Nowbahari E, Hollis KL, Durand J-L (2012) Division of labor regulates precision rescue behavior in sand dwelling Cataglyphis cursor ants: to give is to receive. PLoS One 7: e48516

Nowbahari E, Scohier A, Durand J, Hollis KL (2009) Ants, Cataglyphis cursor, use precisely directed rescue behavior to free entrapped relatives. PLOS One 4: e6573

Nowbahari E, Hollis KL (2010) Rescue behavior. Distinguishing between rescue, cooperation and other forms of altruistic behavior. Commun Integr Biol 3: 77–79

Newey PS, Robson SKA, Crozier RH (2010) Weaver ants Oecophylla smaragdina encounter nasty neighbors rather than dear enemies. Ecology 91: 2366–2372

Powell S, Clark E (2004) Combat between large derived societies: A subterranean army ant established as a predator of mature leaf- cutting ant colonies. Insectes Soc 51: 342–351

Powell S (2008) Ecological specialization and the evolution of a specialized caste in Cephalotes ants. Funct Ecol 22: 902-911

Pepper JW, Herron MD (2008) Does biology need an organism concept? Biol Rev 83: 621–627

Robertson PL (1971) Pheromones involved in aggressive behaviour in the ant Myrmeciagulosa, ft. Insect Physiol 17: 691-715

Roubik DW (1989) Ecology and natural history of tropical bees. University, Cambridge, Cambridge p 514

Siebenaler JB, Caldwell DK (1956) Cooperation among adult dolphins. J. Mamm 37: 126-128

Stuart RJ, Bell PD (1980) Stridulation by workers of the ant Leptothorax muscorum (Nylander) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Psyche 87: 199–210

Strassmann, JE, Queller DC (2010) The social organism: congresses, parties, and committees. Evolution 64, 605–616

Sainz-Borgo C, Cabrera AE, Hernández JV (2011) Nestmate recognition in the ant Odontomachus bauri (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiol 58: 1-18

Taylor K, Visvader A, Nowbahari E, Hollis KL (2013) Precision rescue behavior in North American ants. Evol Psychol 11: 665–677

Taylor F (1978) Foraging behavior of ants: theoretical considerations. J Theo Biol 71: 541-565

Traniello JFA (1982) Population structure and social organization in the primitive ant Amblyopone pallipes (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Psyche 89: 65–80

Uy FMK, Adcock JD, Jeffries SF, Pepere E (2018) Intercolony distance predicts the decision to rescue or attack conspecifics in weaver ants. Insec Soc 66: 185-192

Vogel ER, Fuentes-Jiménez A (2006). Rescue behavior in white-faced capuchin monkeys during an intergroup attack: Support for the infanticide avoidance hypothesis. J Primat 68: 1012-1016

Wang Z, Wen P, Qu Y, Dong S, Li J, Tan K, Nieh JC (2016). Bees eavesdrop upon informative and persistent signal compounds in alarm pheromones. Scientific Reports 6: e25693

Wheeler JW, Blum MS (1973) Alkylpyrazine alarm pheromones in ponerine ants. Science 182: 501-503

Wilson EO (1976) A social ethogram of the neotropical arboreal ant, Zacryptocerus varians (Fr. Smith). Anim Behav 24: 354–363

Yusuf AA, Crewe RM, Pirk CW (2014) Olfactory detection of prey by the termite-raiding ant Pachycondyla analis. J Insect Sci 14: 53




How to Cite

Santos Junior, L. C., Silva, E. P., & Antonialli-Junior, W. F. (2021). Do Odontomachus brunneus nestmates request for help and are taken care of when caught?. Sociobiology, 68(3), e6022.



Research Article - Ants

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 > >>