Morphology and Histochemistry of the Venom Apparatus in Different Castes of the Ant Ectatomma vizottoi (Formicidae: Ectatomminae)

Luan Dias Lima, Ellen Liciane Barbosa Firmino, Alexsandro Santana Vieira, William Fernando Antonialli-Junior


The elimination of toxins via a venom gland by some ant species is a component of a larger mechanism for capturing prey and defense. The present study describes the morphology and histochemistry of the venom apparatus of different castes of the ant Ectatomma vizottoi Almeida, 1987. Morphologically, the venom apparatus of queens, gynes and workers of E. vizottoi are similar and composed of the sting apparatus and three distinct portions: two secretory portions (convoluted gland and secretory filament), and a storage portion (reservoir) - a hollow sting apparatus covered in the terminal portion of the reservoir by a sclerotized cuticle. The venom gland of E. vizottoi is longer in queens and gynes than in workers. Furthermore, the epithelium of the convoluted gland is taller in the glands of queens and gynes than in workers, which may be indicative of greater toxin synthesis, or may be related to different body sizes of the castes. The morphology and histology of the venom apparatus reflect those of a generalist, while the histochemical tests indicated that this structure has the same chemical content of lipids, proteins and polysaccharides among queens, gynes, and workers. Images obtained by confocal microscopy and scanning electronic microscopy reveal a muscle layer surrounding the reservoir that is interlaced with secretory filaments, which fixes, in a manner, the filaments in place. This musculature serves to eject stored venom, which likely leads to greater success in defense or foraging.


Ant morphology; confocal microscopy; venom gland; exocrine gland; convoluted gland.

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