Communication in the primitive cryptobiotic ant Prionopelta amabilis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

B. Hölldobler, M. Obermayer, E. O. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The Neotropical ant Prionopelta amabilis, a cryptobiotic species in the phylogenetically primitive tribe Amblyoponini, lives in subterranean habitats, where it preys preferentially on campodeid diplurans and other small arthropods. Here we report that the species employs chemical recruitment and orientation trails during foraging and nest emigrations. The trail pheromone originates in a hitherto unknown basitarsal gland located in the basitarsus of the hindlegs. Trails are laid by a special foot dragging behavior. During the recruitment process the chemical trail signal is complemented by body shaking on the part of the recruiting ant. Foragers frequently wipe the basitarsal gland opening in the hindlegs with the grooming apparatus of the front legs. This latter structure is equipped with unusual glands evidently specialized for this purpose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-16
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Ants
  • Communication
  • Pheromones
  • Ponerinae
  • Prionopelta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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