Dear Enemy Phenomenon in the Ant Ectatomma brunneum (Formicidae: Ectatomminae): Chemical Signals Mediate Intraspecific Agressive Interactions


  • Márlon César Pereira Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados
  • Ellen Liciane Barbosa Firmino Universidade Estadual de Mato Grosso do Sul
  • Rafaella Caroline Bernardi Universidade Estadual de Mato Grosso do Sul
  • Luan Dias Lima Universidade Estadual de Mato Grosso do Sul
  • Ingrid de Carvalho Guimarães Universidade Estadual de Mato Grosso do Sul
  • Claudia Andrea Lima Cardoso Universidade Estadual de Mato Grosso do Sul
  • William Fernando Antonialli Junior Universidade Estadual de Mato Grosso do Sul



aggressiveness, behavior, cuticular hydrocarbons, gas chromatography


The integrity of ant colonies depends exclusively on social relationships between their individuals, especially the ability of communication between group members, which is mainly mediated through chemical signals. Another important feature of ant behavior is territory defense, since they need to gather large amounts of food to feed their larvae, males and breeding females. Thereby, ants might display behavioral strategies to defend their territories from intruders. Here we investigated whether Ectatomma brunneum displays the Dear Enemy Phenomenon, what is the relationship between Cuticular Hydrocarbon composition and levels of aggression during their intraspecific interactions and which compounds and/or classes of compounds might be the most important to modulate the level of aggression. To test our hypothesis, we evaluated the levels of aggression through behavioral observations during interactions between 23 pairs of colonies nested in two distinct sites at varied distances. Then, we analyzed the cuticular chemical profile of the individuals involved in the interactions, and compared these results with the levels of aggression displayed between colonies tested. The results allow us to confirm our hypothesis that the DEP occurs in E. brunneum. The higher tolerance between closer colonies can be explained due to their kinship level in addition to sharing the same microhabitats. The results also showed there are significant differences in CHCs profiles, especially between colonies nested at relatively greater distances, and it is likely that differences in content of some branched alkanes are the most important to establish these differences and, therefore, the levels of aggression during the interactions.


Download data is not yet available.


Altman, J. (1974) Observational study of behaviour: sampling methods. Behaviour 49: 227-267. Stable URL:

Antonialli-Junior, W.F., Lima, S.M., Andrade, L.H.C. & Súarez, Y.R. (2007) Comparative study of the cuticular hydrocarbon in queens, workers and males of Ectatomma vizottoi (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) by Fourier transform infrared photoacousticspectroscopy. Genetics and molecular research 6: 492-499.

Arnold, G., Quenet, B. & Masson, C. (2000) Influence of social environment on genetically based subfamily signature in the honeybee. Journal of Chemical Ecology 26: 2321-2333. doi:

Bernardi, R.C., Firmino, E.L.B., Pereira, M.C., Andrade, L.H.C., Cardoso, C.A.L., Súarez, Y.R., Antonialli-Junior, W.F. & Lima, S.M. (2014) Fourier transform infrared photoacoustic spectroscopy as a potential tool in assessing the role of diet in cuticular chemical composition of Ectatomma brunneum. Genetics and molecular research 13: 10035-10048. doi:

Blomquist, G. & Bagnères, A.G. (2010). Insect Hydrocarbons: Biology, Biochemistry and Chemical Ecology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 506 p.

Blomquist, G.J., Tillman, J.A., Mpuru, S. & Seybold, S.J. (1998). The cuticle and cuticular hydrocarbons of insects: structure, function, and biochemistry. In: R.K. Vander Meer, M.D. Breed, K.E. Espelie & M.L. Winston (Eds.), Pheromone communication in social insects: ants, wasps, bees, and termite (pp. 34-54). Boulder, Colorado: West-view Press.

Boulay, R., Katzav-gozansky, T., Hefetz, A. & Lenoir, A. (2004) Odour convergence and tolerance between nestmates through trophallaxis and grooming in the ant Camponotus fellah (Dalla Torre). Insectes Sociaux 51: 55-61. doi:

Brown, W.R. (1958) Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. II Tribe Ectatomminae (Hymenoptera). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 118: 175-362.

Cassill, D.L. & Tschinkel, W.R. (1999). Information flow during social feeding in ant societies. In: C.T. Detrain & J.L. Pasteels (Eds.), Information processing in social insects (pp. 69-81). Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser Verlag.

Crozier, R.H. & Pamilo, P. (1996). Evolution of Social Insect Colonies: Sex Allocation and Kin-Selection. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 306 p.

Dimarco, R.D., Farji-Brener, A.G. & Premoli, A.C. (2010) Dear enemy phenomenon in the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex lobicornis: behavioral and genetic evidence. Behavioral Ecology 21: 304-310. doi:

Ferreira, A.C., Cardoso, C.A.L., Neves, E.F., Súarez, Y.R. & Antonialli-Junior, W.F. (2012) Distinct linear hydrocarbon profiles and chemical strategy of facultative parasitism among Mischocyttarus wasps. Genetics and Molecular Research 11: 4351-4359. doi:

Heinze, J., Foitzik, S., Hippert, A. & Hölldobler, B. (1996) Apparent dear-enemy phenomenon and environment-based recognition cues in the ant Leptothorax nylanderi. Ethology 102: 510-522. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.1996.tb01143.x

Huntingford, F.A. & Turner, A.K. (1987) Animal Conflict. New York: Chapman and Hall Ltd, 448 p.

Jutsum, A.R., Saunders, T.S. & Cherrett, J.M. (1979) Intraspecific aggression in the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex octospinosus. Animal Behaviour 27: 839-844. doi:

Knaden, M. & Wehner, R. (2003) Nest defense and conspecific enemy recognition in the desert ant Cataglyphis fortis. Journal of Insect Behavior 16: 717-729. doi:

Langen, T.A., Tripet, F. & Nonacs, P. (2000) The red and black: habituation and the dear-enemy phenomenon in two desert Pheidole ants. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 48: 285-292. doi:

Lapola, D.M., Antonialli-Junior, W.F. & Giannotti, E. (2003) Arquitetura de ninhos da formiga neotropical Ectatomma brunneum F. Smith, 1858 (Formicidae, Ponerinae) em ambientes alterados. Revista Brasileira de Zoociências 5: 177-188.

LeConte, Y. & Hefetz, A. (2008) Primer pheromones in social Hymenoptera. Annual Review of Entomology 53: 523-542. doi:

Lenoir, A., Fresneau, D., Errard, C. & Hefetz, A. (1999). Individuality and colonial identity in ants. In: C. Detrain, J.L. Deneubourg & J. Pasteels (Eds.), Information Processing in Social Insects (pp. 219-237). Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser-Verlag.

Lenoir A., Cuisset, D. & Hefetz, A. (2001) Effects of social isolation on hydrocarbon pattern and nestmate recognition in the ant Aphaenogaster senilis (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux 48: 101-109. doi: 10.1007/PL00001751.

Liang, D. & Silverman, J. (2000) “You are what you eat”: Diet modifies cuticular hydrocarbons and nestmate recognition in the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile. Naturwissenschaften 897: 412-416. doi:

Lorenzi, M.C., Azzani, L. & Bagnères, A.G. (2014) Evolutionary consequences of deception: Complexity and informational content of colony signature are favored by social parasitism. Current Zoology 60: 137-148. doi:

Lorenzi, M.C., Sledge, M.F., Laiolo, P., Sturlini, E. & Turillazzi, S. (2004) Cuticular hydrocarbon dynamics in young adult Polistes dominulus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) and the role of linear hydrocarbons in nestmate recognition systems. Journal of Insect Physiology 50: 935-941. doi:10.1016/j.jinsphys.2004.07.005.

Matthews, R.W. & Matthews, J.R. (2010) Insect Behaviour. London: Springer, 514 p.

Menzel, F., Schmitt, T. & Blüthgen, N. (2009) Intraspecific nestmate recognition in two parabiotic ant species: acquired recognition cues and low inter-colony discrimination. Insectes Sociaux 56: 251-260. doi:

Newey, P.S., Robson, K.S.K.A. & Crozier, R.H. (2010) Weaver ants Oecoplylla smaragdina encounter nasty neighbors rather than dear enemies. Ecology 9: 2366-2372. doi: 10.1890/09-0561.1

Pirk, C.W.W., Neumann, P., Moritz, R.F.A. & Pamilo, P. (2001) Intranest ratedness and nestmate recognition in the meadow ant Formica pratensis (R.). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 49: 366-374. doi:

Quinn, G.P. & Keough, M.J. (2002). Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 537 p.

Ratnieks, F.L.W., Foster, K.R. & Wenseleers, T. (2006) Conflict resolution in insect societies. Annual Review of Entomology 51: 581-608. doi:

Richard, F.J. & Hunt, J.H. (2013) Intracolony chemical communication in social insects. Insectes Sociaux 60: 275-291. doi:

Soroker, V., Fresneau, D. & Hefetz, A. (1998) Formation of colony odor in Ponerinae ant Pachycondyla apicalis. Journal of Chemical Ecology 24: 1077-1090. doi:

Soroker, V., Vienne, C. & Hefetz, A. (1995) Hydrocarbon dynamics within and between nestmates in Cataglyphis niger (Hymenoptera:Formicidae). Journal of Chemical Ecology 21: 365-378. doi:

Sorvari, J., Theodora, P., Turillazzi, S., Hakkarainen, H. & Sundsteöm, L. (2008) Food resources, chemical signaling, and nestmate recognition in the ant Formica aquilonia. Behavioral Ecology 19: 441-447. doi:

Stuart, R.J. & Herbers, J.M. (2000) Nestmate recognition in ants with complex colonies: within and between population variation. Behavioral Ecology 11: 676-685. doi:

Suarez, A.V., Tsuitsui, N.D., Holway, D.A. & Case, T.J. (1999) Behavioral and genetic differentiation between native and introduced populations of the Argentine ant. Biological Invasions 1: 43-53. doi:

Tannure-Nascimento, I.C., Nascimento, F.S., Turatti, I.C., Lopes, N.P., Trigo, J.R. & Zucchi, R. (2007) Colony membership is reflected by variations in cuticular hydrocarbon profile in a neotropical paper wasp, Polistes satan (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Genetics and Molecular Research 6: 390-396.

Temeles, E.J. (1994) The role of neighbours in territorial systems: when are they “dear enemies‟? Animal Behaviour 47: 339-350. doi:

Van den Dool, H. & Kratz, P.D. (1963) A generalization of the retention index system including linear temperature programmed gas-liquid partition chromatography. Journal of Chromatography 11: 463-471. doi:

Veloso, H.P., Rangel Filho, A.L.R. & Lima, J.C.A. (1991). Classificação da vegetação brasileira adaptada a um sistema universal. Rio de Janeiro: IBGE, Departamento de Recursos Naturais e Estudos Ambientais, 124 p.

Vieira, A.S. & Antonialli-Junior, W.F. (2006) Populational fluctuation and nest architecture of Ectatomma brunneum (Hymenoptera,Formicidae) in remaining areas of pasture, Dourados- MS, Brasil. Sociobiology 47: 275-287.

Yagound, B., Crowet, M., Leroy, C., Poteaux, C. & Châline, N. (2017) Interspecific variation in neighbour-stranger discrimination in ants of the Neoponera apicalis complex. Ecological Entomology 42: 125-136. doi: 10.1111/een.12363

Ydenberg, R.C., Giraldeau, L.A. & Falls, J.B. (1988) Neighbours, strangers, and asymmetric war of attrition. Animal Behaviour 36: 343-347. doi:

Zinck, L., Hora, R.R., Chaline, N. & Jaisson, P. (2008) Low intraspecific aggression level in the polydomous and facultative polygynous ant Ectatomma tuberculatum. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 126: 211-216. doi: 10.1111/j.1570-7458.2007.00654.x

Zweden, J.S., Dreier, S. & d’Ettorre, P. (2009) Disentangling environmental and heritable nestmate recognition cues in a carpenter ant. Journal of Insect Physiology 55: 158-163. doi:




How to Cite

Pereira, M. C., Firmino, E. L. B., Bernardi, R. C., Lima, L. D., Guimarães, I. de C., Cardoso, C. A. L., & Antonialli Junior, W. F. (2019). Dear Enemy Phenomenon in the Ant Ectatomma brunneum (Formicidae: Ectatomminae): Chemical Signals Mediate Intraspecific Agressive Interactions. Sociobiology, 66(2), 218–226.



Research Article - Ants

Most read articles by the same author(s)