Interspecific aggression in colonies of the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus sublaevis

Jürgen Heinze, Diethe Ortius, Manfred Kaib, Bert Hölldobler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Colonies of the slave-making ant, Harpagoxenus sublaevis, may simultaneously contain workers of several Leptothorax slave species. We observed aggressive interactions among slave-makers, between slavemakers and slaves, and among slaves in 11 mixed colonies. The first two types of aggression appear to be correlated with reproductive competition for the production of males. Aggressive interactions among slaves, however, occurred mainly between slaves belonging to different species. In two colonies, in which one slave species clearly outnumbered the other, the majority attacked and finally expelled all nestmates belonging to the minority species. Our observations thus suggest that in Harpagoxenus colonies a homogeneous "colony odor" is not always achieved and that heterospecific slaves may occasionally be mistaken for alien ants. Gas chromatographic analyses of ants from mixed colonies similarly show that cuticular hydrocarbon profiles may differ strongly between heterospecific nestmate slaves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Cuticular hydrocarbons
  • Interspecific aggression
  • Nest odor
  • Reproductive competition
  • Slave-making ants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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