"You are what you eat": diet modifies cuticular hydrocarbons and nestmate recognition in the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile

Naturwissenschaften. 2000 Sep;87(9):412-6. doi: 10.1007/s001140050752.


Nestmate recognition plays a key role in the behavior and evolution of social insects. We demonstrated that hydrocarbons are the chemical cues used in Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, nestmate recognition, and that these hydrocarbons can be acquired from insect prey. Consequently, Argentine ant cuticular hydrocarbon patterns reveal the same hydrocarbons present in their diet. Diet alters both the recognition cues present on the cuticular surface and the response of nestmates to this new colony odor, resulting in aggression between former nestmates reared on different insect prey.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Argentina
  • Blattellidae
  • California
  • Cockroaches
  • Cues
  • Diet*
  • Hydrocarbons / metabolism*
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Social Behavior*


  • Hydrocarbons