Honors College Theses

Date

2021

Major

Biology (B.S.B.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Joshua Gibson

Abstract

Argentine ants, Linepithema humile, are a globally invasive species that displaces native species and facilitates agricultural pests. Colonies occupy distinct territories with multiple nests and defend them against other colonies. Ants have a waxy coating of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) and can detect (i.e. smell) differences in these CHCs to identify their own vs foreign colonies. In the US, Argentine ants have been primarily studied in California where they only form four massive colonies showing mutual aggression, some spanning more than 500 miles. In the Southeast, colony recognition remains largely unexplored; however, we have identified several smaller colonies based on behavioral differences across lesser distances. It is currently unknown why the California ants interact as a single colony even across long distances while the Southeastern ants are found in many smaller colonies. The CHC profiles of the four colonies in California are known to contain over 70 chemicals, but it is unclear which components are most important for recognition. We collected Argentine ants from within and across colonies in Southeast Georgia as well as the largest California colony to analyze their CHC profiles using gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC/MS). We present an analysis of the qualitative differences within and between colonies in southeast Georgia. As one of the first studies of CHCs in southeast Georgia, this work increases our understanding of the variability and the role of CHC profiles in facilitating colony recognition in Argentine ants.

Thesis Summary

Here, we present an analysis of the qualitative differences within and between colonies in southeast Georgia. As one of the first studies of CHCs in southeast Georgia, this work increases our understanding of the variability and the role of CHC profiles in facilitating colony recognition in Argentine ants.

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