1. Ecology
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The cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of honey bee workers develop via a socially-modulated innate process

  1. Cassondra L Vernier
  2. Joshua J Krupp
  3. Katelyn Marcus
  4. Abraham Hefetz
  5. Joel D Levine
  6. Yehuda Ben-Shahar  Is a corresponding author
  1. Washington University in St Louis, United States
  2. University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada
  3. Tel Aviv University, Israel
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e41855 doi: 10.7554/eLife.41855

Abstract

Large social insect colonies exhibit a remarkable ability for recognizing group members via colony-specific cuticular pheromonal signatures. Previous work suggested that in some ant species, colony-specific pheromonal profiles are generated through a mechanism involving the transfer and homogenization of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) across members of the colony. However, how colony-specific chemical profiles are generated in other social insect clades remains mostly unknown. Here we show that in the honey bee (Apis mellifera), the colony-specific CHC profile completes its maturation in foragers via a sequence of stereotypic age-dependent quantitative and qualitative chemical transitions, which are driven by environmentally-sensitive intrinsic biosynthetic pathways. Therefore, the CHC profiles of individual honey bees are not likely produced through homogenization and transfer mechanisms, but instead mature in association with age-dependent division of labor. Furthermore, non-nestmate rejection behaviors seem to be contextually restricted to behavioral interactions between entering foragers and guards at the hive entrance.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Cassondra L Vernier

    Department of Biology, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Joshua J Krupp

    Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Katelyn Marcus

    Department of Biology, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Abraham Hefetz

    Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-9678-9429
  5. Joel D Levine

    Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-6254-6274
  6. Yehuda Ben-Shahar

    Department of Biology, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, United States
    For correspondence
    benshahary@wustl.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-2956-2926

Funding

National Science Foundation (1545778)

  • Yehuda Ben-Shahar

National Science Foundation (1707221)

  • Yehuda Ben-Shahar

National Science Foundation (1754264)

  • Yehuda Ben-Shahar

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

  • Joel D Levine

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

  • Joshua J Krupp
  • Joel D Levine

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Kristin Scott, University of California, Berkeley, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: September 9, 2018
  2. Accepted: January 31, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: February 5, 2019 (version 1)

Copyright

© 2019, Vernier et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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