Visual and olfactory communications are vital for coordinated group hunting in most animals. To hunt for prey, the group-raiding termite specialist ant Megaponera analis, which lacks good vision, must first confirm the presence or absence of conspecific raiders. Here, we show that M. analis uses olfactory cues for intraspecific communication and showed greater preference for conspecific odors over clean air (blank) or odors from its termite prey. Chemical analysis of ant volatiles identified predominantly short-chained hydrocarbons. Electrophysiological analysis revealed differential sensory detection of the odor compounds, which were confirmed in behavioral olfactometric choice assays with odor bouquets collected from major and minor castes and the 2 most dominant volatiles and n-undecane n-tridecane. A comparative analysis of the cuticular hydrocarbon profile with those of the short-chained odor bouquet of different populations shows a high divergence in the long-chained profile and a much-conserved short-chained odor bouquet. This suggests that there is less selection pressure for divergence and individual recognition in the short- than the long-chained odor profiles. We conclude that olfactory communication serves as an alternative to visual or sound communication, especially during group raids in M. analis when ants are not in direct contact with one another.

This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)