Ethological Aspects of Chemical Communication in Ants

Bert Hölldobler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The complex organization of an ant society depends on the efficiency of many different forms of communication, involving a diversity of mechanical and chemical cues. This chapter discusses the communication between sexual stages, alarm, and recruitment communication, communication and territorial strategies, and communication between ants and their guests. The chapter discusses on the ethological aspects of chemical communication in ants. The best studied communication behavior in ants is probably chemical communication. Social insects use chemicals to repel predators, and defensive responses are closely connected with alarm communication, and the discharge of alarm pheromones and defensive substances is accompanied by characteristic body movements and postures. The recruitment techniques employed by different groups of ant species vary considerably, and the best studied recruitment behavior is the chemical trail communication. The cumulative studies have made clear that motor displays and mechanical signals play an important role during recruitment communication in many ant species. The chapter suggests that the success of the myrmecophiles depends largely on their ability to communicate with their hosts. By comparative analyses of the interspecific associations and communication mechanisms of closely related species, it is possible to reconstruct a picture of the possible evolutionary pathways that have led to the highly specialized social parasitic relationships in ant societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-115
Number of pages41
JournalAdvances in the Study of Behavior
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jan 1 1978
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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