A conserved class of queen pheromones? Re-evaluating the evidence in bumblebees (Bombus impatiens)

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Abstract

The regulation of reproductive division of labour is a key component in the evolution of social insects. Chemical signals are important mechanisms to regulate worker reproduction, either as queen-produced pheromones that coercively inhibit worker reproduction or as queen signals that honestly advertise her fecundity. A recent study suggested that a conserved class of hydrocarbons serve as queen pheromones across three independent origins of eusociality. In bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), pentacosane (C25) was suggested to serve as a queen pheromone. Here, we repeat these studies using a different species of bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) with a more controlled experimental design. Instead of dequeened colonies, we used same-aged, three-worker queenless groups comprising either experienced or naive workers (with/without adult exposure to queen pheromone).We quantified three hydrocarbons (C23, C25 and C27) on the cuticular surfaces of females and tested their effects on the two worker types. Our results indicate differences in responses of naive and experienced workers, genetic effects on worker reproduction, and general effects of hydrocarbons and duration of egg laying on ovary resorption rates. However, we found no evidence to support the theory that a conserved class of hydrocarbons serve as queen pheromones or queen signals in Bombus impatiens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume282
Issue number1817
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 22 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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