Communication by means of pheromones plays predominant roles in colony integration by social insects. However, almost nothing is known about pheromone processing in the brains of social insects. In this study, we successfully applied intracellular recording and staining techniques to anatomically and physiologically characterize brain neurons of the ant Camponotus obscuripes. We identified 42 protocerebral neurons that responded to undecane and/or formic acid, components of alarm pheromones that evoke attraction or evasive behavior, respectively. Notably, 30 (71%) of these neurons were efferent (output) or feedback neurons of the mushroom body, and many of these exhibited different responses to formic acid and undecane. Eight of the remaining 12 neurons had arborizations in the lateral and/or medial protocerebrum, which receive terminations of efferent neurons of the mushroom body and from which premotor descending neurons originate. The remaining four neurons were bilateral neurons that connect lateral accessory lobes or dorsal protocerebrums of both hemispheres. We suggest that the mushroom body of the ant participates in the processing of alarm pheromones. Seventeen (40%) of 42 neurons exhibited responses to nonpheromonal odors, indicating that the pheromonal and nonpheromonal signals are not fully segregated when they are processed in the protocerebrum. This may be related to modulatory functions of alarm pheromones, i.e., they change alertness of the ant and change responses to a variety of sensory stimuli.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics