Biogenic amines in the ponerine ant Harpegnathos saltator: Serotonin and dopamine immunoreactivity in the brain

Susanne C. Hoyer, Jürgen Liebig, Wolfgang Rössler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Many studies suggest a role for biogenic amines in a variety of insect behaviors including intraspecific aggression. In ants, despite a rich behavioral repertoire and prominent aggressive interactions, little is known about the potential impact of biogenic amines. This may partly be due to the general lack of information about aminergic systems in the ant brain. The present study investigates serotonergic and dopaminergic neuronal systems in the brain of the ponerine ant Harpegnathos saltator. In H. saltator, intraspecific aggression is important for the regulation of reproduction. This species, therefore, is amenable to comparative studies of aminergic neuronal effects on long-term changes in aggression. Using immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy, we found that in the brains of sterile workers, the distributions of serotonergic and dopaminergic neuronal processes differed substantially. In addition, branching patterns of serotonergic neurons showed marked differences between males and females. Brains of workers after 3 days and 3 weeks of aggressive interactions revealed no marked differences in serotonergic and dopaminergic neurons compared to those of reproductive and non-aggressive individuals. We conclude that different levels of intraspecific aggression do not involve profound anatomical changes in serotonergic and dopaminergic neurons. Subtle changes may be masked by inter-individual variances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-440
Number of pages12
JournalArthropod Structure and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggression
  • Antennal lobe
  • Mushroom body
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neuronal plasticity
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Insect Science


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