The chemistry of social regulation: Multicomponent signals in ant societies

Bert Hölldobler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Chemical signals mediating communication in ant societies are usually complex mixtures of substances with considerable variation in molecular composition and in relative proportions of components. Such multicomponent signals can be produced in single exocrine glands, but they can also be composed with secretions from several glands. This variation is often functional, identifying groups or specific actions on a variety of organizational levels. Chemical signals can be further combined with cues from other sensory modalities, such as vibrational or tactile stimuli. These kinds of accessory signals usually serve in modulatory communication, lowering the response threshold in the recipient for the actual releasing stimulus. Comparative studies suggest that modulatory signals evolved through ritualization from actions originally not related to the same behavioral context, and modulatory signals may further evolve to become independent releasing signals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-22
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 3 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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