Data from: Coping with the climate: cuticular hydrocarbon acclimation of ants under constant and fluctuating conditions
Sprenger, Philipp Peter et al. (2018), Data from: Coping with the climate: cuticular hydrocarbon acclimation of ants under constant and fluctuating conditions, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.891vt38
Terrestrial arthropods achieve waterproofing by a layer of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs). At the same time, CHCs also serve as communication signals. To maintain waterproofing under different climate conditions, insects adjust the chemical composition of their CHC layer, but this may affect the communication via CHC. The detailed acclimatory changes of CHCs and how these influence their physical properties are still unknown. Here, we studied acclimation in two closely related ant species with distinct CHC profiles, Myrmica rubra and Myrmica ruginodis, in response to constant or fluctuating temperature and humidity regimes. We measured how acclimation affected CHC composition and viscosity, and the ants’ drought survival. In both species, CHC composition showed strong, predictable responses to temperature regimes. Warm-acclimated individuals had higher proportions of linear alkanes, and less methyl-branched or unsaturated CHCs. These changes coincided with higher solid content and viscosity of CHCs in warm-acclimated ants. Temperature fluctuation caused effects similar to constant-cool conditions in M. rubra, but led to entirely different profiles in M. ruginodis, suggesting that fluctuating and constant conditions pose very different challenges. Acclimation to dry conditions led to higher absolute amounts of CHCs, which increased the ants’ drought survival, whereas temperature acclimation did not. Hence, the temperature-induced CHC changes cannot be explained by the need for waterproofing alone. While these changes could be non-adaptive, we propose that they serve to maintain a constant CHC viscosity, which may be essential for communication and other functions.