Cuticular Hydrocarbon Pheromones for Social Behavior and Their Coding in the Ant Antenna

Kavita R. Sharma, Brittany L. Enzmann, Yvonne Schmidt, Dani Moore, Graeme R. Jones, Jane Parker, Shelley L. Berger, Danny Reinberg, Laurence J. Zwiebel, Bernhard Breit, Juergen Liebig, Anandasankar Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


The sophisticated organization of eusocial insect societies is largely based on the regulation of complex behaviors by hydrocarbon pheromones present on the cuticle. We used electrophysiology to investigate the detection of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) by female-specific olfactory sensilla basiconica on the antenna of Camponotus floridanus ants through the utilization of one of the largest family of odorant receptors characterized so far in insects. These sensilla, each of which contains multiple olfactory receptor neurons, are differentially sensitive to CHCs and allow them to be classified into three broad groups that collectively detect every hydrocarbon tested, including queen and worker-enriched CHCs. This broad-spectrum sensitivity is conserved in a related species, Camponotus laevigatus, allowing these ants to detect CHCs from both nestmates and non-nestmates. Behavioral assays demonstrate that these ants are excellent at discriminating CHCs detected by the antenna, including enantiomers of a candidate queen pheromone that regulates the reproductive division of labor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1940
Pages (from-to)1261-1271
Number of pages11
JournalCell Reports
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 25 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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