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

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The effect of neurotoxin drugs on the social behavior in Monomorium pharaonis ants

Author(s):
Jonas Gall Berner Schultz Madsen, Jonas Gall Berner Schultz Madsen , Manuel Nagel , Guojie Zhang
Institution(s):
Center for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Center for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen, Denmark ; Center for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen, Denmark ; Center for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
As social insects, ants live in colonies composed of millions of individuals. This intricate sociality requires that each ant accurately perceives and processes an array of chemical and visual stimuli from other colony members and its surroundings. Any disruption to the olfactory, visual or somatic nervous system could impair this communication and therefore threaten the colony’s existence. The impact of neurotoxins on social insects` behavior have mostly been investigated in the honeybee (A. mellifera). One such class of neurotoxins, the neonicotinoids, have been shown to impair the vector memory which subsequently reduces the probability of a successful homing flight. In this study, we investigate the effect of neurotoxins on social behavior using Monomorium pharaonis ants as a model species. Specifically, we aim to assess the effect of neurotoxins on nestmate interactions and task allocation, both at a gross behavioral level and the molecular mechanisms underpinning this. We use a number of the most commonly applied neonicotinoids, that act on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, in addition to several psychiatric drugs that act on serotonin levels and serotonin receptors. We established the dosage effect of these neurotoxins in M. pharaonis and performed behavioral assays on different aspects of social behavior. The behavioral assays were supplemented with a brain transcriptome analysis comparing gene expression levels across the various treatments. This allows us to correlate drug-induced changes in the behavior to changes in gene expression patterns, and potentially elucidate the molecular mechanisms that contribute to specific social behavior. 
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