Social insects provide an intriguing model system in chronobiology. Typically, an egg-laying queen exhibits arrhythmicity in activity while foraging worker has clear rhythmicity. In the queenless ant, Diacamma sp., from Japan, colony members lack morphological caste, and reproductive differentiation occurs as a consequence of dominance hierarchy formation. Their specialized dominance interaction “gemmae mutilation”, provide us a fascinating model system to investigate the effect of social dominance on rhythmic ontogeny. Measurement of individual rhythms revealed that they have clear circadian rhythm at eclosion but it is diminished by social mutilation of gemmae. Moreover, unlike highly eusocial species, mated egg-layer (i.e., gamergate) possessed a circadian rhythm even after mating in Diacamma. Measurement of colony-level rhythms revealed that gemmae mutilations are performed in the limited time of the day, but foraging occurs around-the-clock. The above finding is a novel form of temporal organization in social insects, providing a new insight in morphologically casteless species. We discuss the causes and consequences of rhythmic variability in social organization.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.