Research objectives and content
It was shown that social insects recognise nestmates using non-volatile cuticular substances. Generally, when two ant species cohabit in the same nest their cuticular profiles becomes similar. Parasitic ants are able to override the chemical barrier of nestmate recognition of hosts, acquiring their cuticular pattern by mimicry or camouflage. The aim of this project is to analyse the evolution of recognition mechanisms employing two different species of slave-making ants (obligatory and facultative). By means of gas-chromatography, mass spectrometry and behavioural studies we will investigate: 1) the behavioural and chemical strategy of the newly mated parasitic queens (which are unable to found a new colony independently), 2) the chemical mechanisms (camouflage or mimicry) achieving the parasite a successful integration into the host nest, 3) the ontogeny of nestmates labels of callows and the role of the postpharyngeal gland in he formation of 'colony odour' (parasitic and free living colonies).
Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact)
Deep knowledge of the most advanced techniques of chemical and behavioural analysis for the study of insects, not used in Italy up to now. Improvement of chances in finding a research-teaching position. Links with industry / industrial relevance (22)
The study of recognition mechanisms is indispensable for agriculture management, as many social insects are pest in many European Countries.