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The Ant Who Cried Wolf? Short-Term Repeated Exposure to Alarm Pheromone Reduces Behavioral Response in Argentine Ants

Citation

Whyte, Brian; Maccaro, Jessica J.; Tsutsui, Neil D. (2021), The Ant Who Cried Wolf? Short-Term Repeated Exposure to Alarm Pheromone Reduces Behavioral Response in Argentine Ants, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.6078/D1F13S

Abstract

In this study we test whether Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) progressively reduce their response to a salient stimulus (alarm pheromone) with increased exposure over time. First, we used a two-chamber olfactometer to demonstrate three focal behaviors of Argentine ants that indicate an alarmed state in response to conspecific alarm pheromone and pure synthetic iridomyrmecin (a dominant component of L. humile alarm pheromone). We then measured how these behaviors changed after repeated exposure to conspecific alarm pheromone from live ants. In addition, we investigate whether there is a difference in the ants’ behavioral response after “short” (3 min) versus “long” (6 min) intervals between treatments. Our results show that Argentine ants do exhibit reduced responses to their own alarm pheromone, temporarily ceasing their response to it after four or five exposures, and this pattern holds whether exposure is repeated after “short” or “long” intervals. We suggest alarm pheromones may be perceived as false alarms unless threatening stimuli warrant a continued state of alarm. These results should be kept in mind while developing pheromone-based integrated pest management strategies.

Methods

Methods of data collection are described in the manuscript, which is open-access. 

Usage Notes

Each number in the behavior columns (Moving, Grooming, etc.) is the number of ants demonstrating that behavior at a certain time (Time / TimePoint) for a certain replicate (Trial).