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Crematoenones - a novel substance class exhibited by ants functions as appeasement signal.

Menzel, Florian and Blüthgen, Nico and Tolasch, Till and Conrad, Jürgen and Beifuß, Uwe and Beuerle, Till and Schmitt, Thomas (2013):
Crematoenones - a novel substance class exhibited by ants functions as appeasement signal.
In: Frontiers in zoology, p. 32, 10, (1), ISSN 1742-9994, [Article]

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Parasitic, commensalistic, and mutualistic guests in social insect colonies often circumvent their hosts' nestmate recognition system to be accepted. These tolerance strategies include chemical mimicry and chemical insignificance. While tolerance strategies have been studied intensively in social parasites, little is known about these mechanisms in non-parasitic interactions.Here, we describe a strategy used in a parabiotic association, i.e. two mutualistic ant species that regularly share a common nest although they have overlapping food niches. One of them, Crematogaster modiglianii, produces an array of cuticular compounds which represent a substance class undescribed in nature so far. They occur in high abundances, which suggests an important function in the ant's association with its partner Camponotus rufifemur.

RESULTS

We elucidated the structure of one of the main compounds from cuticular extracts using gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, chemical derivatizations and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). The compound consists of two fused six-membered rings with two alkyl groups, one of which carries a keto functionality. To our knowledge, this is the first report on the identification of this substance class in nature. We suggest naming the compound crematoenone.In behavioural assays, crematoenones reduced interspecific aggression. Camponotus showed less aggression to allospecific cuticular hydrocarbons when combined with crematoenones. Thus, they function as appeasement substances. However, although the crematoenone composition was highly colony-specific, interspecific recognition was mediated by cuticular hydrocarbons, and not by crematoenones.

CONCLUSIONS

Crematenones enable Crematogaster to evade Camponotus aggression, and thus reduce potential costs from competition with Camponotus. Hence, they seem to be a key factor in the parabiosis, and help Crematogaster to gain a net benefit from the association and thus maintain a mutualistic association over evolutionary time.To our knowledge, putative appeasement substances have been reported only once so far, and never between non-parasitic species. Since most organisms associated with social insects need to overcome their nestmate recognition system, we hypothesize that appeasement substances might play an important role in the evolution and maintenance of other mutualistic associations as well, by allowing organisms to reduce costs from antagonistic behaviour of other species.

Item Type: Article
Erschienen: 2013
Creators: Menzel, Florian and Blüthgen, Nico and Tolasch, Till and Conrad, Jürgen and Beifuß, Uwe and Beuerle, Till and Schmitt, Thomas
Title: Crematoenones - a novel substance class exhibited by ants functions as appeasement signal.
Language: English
Abstract:

BACKGROUND

Parasitic, commensalistic, and mutualistic guests in social insect colonies often circumvent their hosts' nestmate recognition system to be accepted. These tolerance strategies include chemical mimicry and chemical insignificance. While tolerance strategies have been studied intensively in social parasites, little is known about these mechanisms in non-parasitic interactions.Here, we describe a strategy used in a parabiotic association, i.e. two mutualistic ant species that regularly share a common nest although they have overlapping food niches. One of them, Crematogaster modiglianii, produces an array of cuticular compounds which represent a substance class undescribed in nature so far. They occur in high abundances, which suggests an important function in the ant's association with its partner Camponotus rufifemur.

RESULTS

We elucidated the structure of one of the main compounds from cuticular extracts using gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, chemical derivatizations and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). The compound consists of two fused six-membered rings with two alkyl groups, one of which carries a keto functionality. To our knowledge, this is the first report on the identification of this substance class in nature. We suggest naming the compound crematoenone.In behavioural assays, crematoenones reduced interspecific aggression. Camponotus showed less aggression to allospecific cuticular hydrocarbons when combined with crematoenones. Thus, they function as appeasement substances. However, although the crematoenone composition was highly colony-specific, interspecific recognition was mediated by cuticular hydrocarbons, and not by crematoenones.

CONCLUSIONS

Crematenones enable Crematogaster to evade Camponotus aggression, and thus reduce potential costs from competition with Camponotus. Hence, they seem to be a key factor in the parabiosis, and help Crematogaster to gain a net benefit from the association and thus maintain a mutualistic association over evolutionary time.To our knowledge, putative appeasement substances have been reported only once so far, and never between non-parasitic species. Since most organisms associated with social insects need to overcome their nestmate recognition system, we hypothesize that appeasement substances might play an important role in the evolution and maintenance of other mutualistic associations as well, by allowing organisms to reduce costs from antagonistic behaviour of other species.

Journal or Publication Title: Frontiers in zoology
Volume: 10
Number: 1
Divisions: 10 Department of Biology
10 Department of Biology > Synthetic Ecological Networks
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2013 07:06
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