A right royal stink

Winged male ants avoid attack by wingless males by mimicking the smell of virgin queens.

Tudor Toma
Oct 30, 2002

Males of the tropical ant Cardiocondyla obscurior are either wingless and aggressive (ergatoid) or winged and docile, yet both compete for access to virgin queens in the nest. In October 31 Nature, Sylvia Cremer and colleagues at the University of Regensburg, Germany, show that winged males avoid the ergatoid aggression by mimicking the chemical bouquet of virgin queens (Nature, 419: 897, October 31, 2002).

Cremer et al. studied C. obscurior males and observed that ergatoid males attempted to mate with young winged males as often as with virgin queens. But ergatoid males showed no interest in older winged males, whereas virgin queens remained attractive regardless of their age. In addition, they showed that that the odor similarity of young — and only young — winged males to virgin queens explains their age-dependent attractiveness to ergatoid males. Winged males leave the colony 1 to 2 weeks after...

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