International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI2018), August 5-10, 2018 in Guarujá, Brazil.

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Nestmate Recognition Cues Mature Via Socially-Regulated Ontogenetic Processes in the Honey Bee

Author(s):
Cassondra Vernier, Cassondra Vernier , Joshua Krupp , Katelyn Marcus , Abraham Hefetz , Joel Levine , Yehuda Ben-Shahar
Institution(s):
Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Biology, St. Louis, MO, USA; Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Biology, St. Louis, MO, USA ; University of Toronto Mississauga, Department of Biology, Mississauga, ON, Canada ; Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Biology, St. Louis, MO, USA ; Tel Aviv University, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv, Israel ; University of Toronto Mississauga, Department of Biology, Mississauga, ON, Canada ; Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Biology, St. Louis, MO, USA
Robust nestmate recognition systems depend on the ability of large groups of animals to express common, colony-specific cues, which in the honey bee are comprised of pheromonal cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC). The widely accepted “Gestalt” model of nestmate recognition cue acquisition states that compounds used in recognition are mixed between members of the hive via passive transfer mechanisms, leading to the emergence of a complex unique signal that is carried by all members of the colony. Although data support the gestalt model in some ant species, its applicability to other eusocial insect species remains unknown. Therefore, we tested this model in the honey bee, Apis mellifera by using a combination of colony demography manipulations, and behavioral, molecular, and chemo-analytical experimental approaches. We found that in contrast to predictions of the gestalt model, individual honey bee workers undergo quantitative and qualitative changes in their CHC profile throughout their age-related behavioral maturation, and that these CHC profile changes are likely driven by intrinsic developmental regulation of the CHC biosynthetic pathway that is influenced by the individual’s behavioral task and social environment. Furthermore, we found that only forager honey bees seem to carry the colony-specific cue recognized by guard bees. Together, our data suggests that instead of following a gestalt model, nestmate recognition cues are acquired by individual honey bees via socially-regulated ontogenetic processes.
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