Foraging behavior in the ant genus Messor (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae)

Nicola J R Plowes, Robert A. Johnson, Berthold Hoelldobler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


The genus Messor consists of 113 species of seed harvesting ants that are found in grasslands, semi-arid areas and savannahs in both the Old and New World. A full spectrum of foraging strategies occurs in Messor, ranging from individual to group foraging, with the latter having evolved several times. This paper reviews foraging strategies and the underlying behavioral mechanisms found in species of Messor. The glandular origin of trail pheromones in Old World species examined thus far come from Dufour gland secretions, whereas New World species use secretions from the poison gland. The constituents of poison and Dufour glands are known for several species, but biologically active components have not been identified. In addition, two New World group foraging species (M. andrei, M. pergandei) possess pygidial glands that function during initiation of group foraging. Overall, this diverse genus deserves further study because it contains examples of behavioral convergence both within the genus and with other seed harvesting genera, such as Pogonomyrmex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-49
Number of pages17
JournalMyrmecological News
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013


  • Dufour gland
  • Foraging columns
  • Harvesting ants
  • Poison gland
  • Pygidial gland
  • Recruitment
  • Review
  • Trunk trails

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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