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Relation Between Behaviour and Physiological Maturation in a Ponerine Ant

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In the ponerine ant, Ectatomma tuberculatum, workers pass through successive functional stages over the course of their adult life. This behavioural ontogeny from brood care to foraging activity appears to be closely related to glandular changes. Intranidal workers have growing or mature ovaries, while extranidal workers have degenerated ovaries but a well-developed reservoir of the poison gland. Our study, which was based on individual marking and multidimensional analyses, evidenced that the behavioural differences recorded among workers of a same age class are related to at least one physiological parameter. It means that variations in the course of the functional stages as compared to a basic age polyethism, may be partly explained by physiological maturation. We suggested then to substitute the term of 'age polyethism' by a more appropriate one, such as 'maturation polyethism'.

Affiliations: 1: (Laboratoire d'Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée, URA CNRS 2214, Université Paris-Nord, 93430 Villetaneuse, France


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