Sex-specific antennal sensory system in the ant Camponotus japonicus: structure and distribution of sensilla on the flagellum

Cell Tissue Res. 2009 Oct;338(1):79-97. doi: 10.1007/s00441-009-0863-1.


The antennae are a critically important component of the ant's highly elaborated chemical communication systems. However, our understanding of the organization of the sensory systems on the antennae of ants, from peripheral receptors to central and output systems, is poorly understood. Consequently, we have used scanning electron and confocal laser microscopy to create virtually complete maps of the structure, numbers of sensory neurons, and distribution patterns of all types of external sensilla on the antennal flagellum of all types of colony members of the carpenter ant Camponotus japonicus. Based on the outer cuticular structures, the sensilla have been classified into seven types: coelocapitular, coeloconic, ampullaceal, basiconic, trichoid-I, trichoid-II, and chaetic sensilla. Retrograde staining of antennal nerves has enabled us to count the number of sensory neurons housed in the different types of sensilla: three in a coelocapitular sensillum, three in a coeloconic sensillum, one in an ampullaceal sensillum, over 130 in a basiconic sensillum, 50-60 in a trichoid-I sensillum, and 8-9 in a trichoid-II sensillum. The basiconic sensilla, which are cuticular hydrocarbon-receptive in the ant, are present in workers and unmated queens but absent in males. Coelocapitular sensilla (putatively hygro- and thermoreceptive) have been newly identified in this study. Coelocapitular, coeloconic, and ampullaceal sensilla form clusters and show biased distributions on flagellar segments of antennae in all colony members. The total numbers of sensilla per flagellum are about 9000 in unmated queens, 7500 in workers, and 6000 in males. This is the first report presenting comprehensive sensillar maps of antennae in ants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants / anatomy & histology*
  • Ants / physiology
  • Ants / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Male
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / ultrastructure*