The kin recognition system of carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) - III. Within-colony discrimination

Norman F. Carlin, Bert Hölldobler, David S. Gladstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Hamilton's (1964) hypothesis linking haplodiploidy and eusociality in the Hymenoptera could be reconciled with the occurrence of polygyny and multiple insemination if workers are able to distinguish full (3/4 related) sisters from other familiar matri- and patrilines within the colony, and direct altruistic behavior toward them preferentially. We examined this possibility in small genetically mixed nests of the carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus, formed by the transfer of worker pupae from two unrelated source colonies. In 120 h of observation on 12 queenright and 12 queenless nests, more than 15,000 behavioral interactions were recorded. Workers antennated familiar nonkin significantly more frequently than familiar sisters. However, they failed to discriminate consistently between kin and non-kin in food exchanges and grooming. Aggressive behavior was occasionally observed in some queenless nests, but almost never in the presence of a queen. When aggression did occur, it was directed significantly more often toward non-kin. Though related adult workers did not cooperate preferentially, the biases in antennation and aggression do indicate an ability to discriminate familiar kin from familiar nonkin, which may be employed in other contexts such as the rearing of reproductive brood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-227
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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