Acoustic Communication

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Ants, like most insects, live in a strikingly different sensory world. For many insects pheromones, and thus the ability to detect and thus sense the world via chemical reception, are far more important in conveying information needed for their survival and reproduction than other potential senses. Yet other senses have evolved and are useful for many species. Some species of ants can and do use acoustic signals to sense environmental cues or to communicate with one another.

This page is a place to begin to organize and list ideas, topics and research about acoustic signals and communication in ants.

Myrmecophiles

Researchers are beginning to investigate how Myrmecophiles and other organisms associated with ants have evolved to mimic acoustic communications of particular ant species, either in forming mutualisms or to falsely signal particular ant species that they exploit.

A review by Schonrogge et al. (2017) - Abstract This review focuses on the main acoustic adaptations that have evolved to enhance social communication in ants. We also describe how other invertebrates mimic these acoustic signals in order to coexist with ants in the case of mutualistic myrmecophiles, or, in the case of social parasites, corrupt them in order to infiltrate ant societies and exploit their resources. New data suggest that the strength of each antemyrmecophile interaction leads to distinctive sound profiles and may be a better predictor of the similarity of sound between different myrmecophilous species than their phylogenetic distance. Finally, we discuss the evolutionary significance of vibrations produced by specialized myrmecophiles in the context of ant multimodal communication involving the use of chemical and acoustic signals in combination and identify future challenges for research including how new technology might allow a better understanding of the study systems.

References

  • Schonrogge, K., F. Barbero, L. P. Casacci, J. Settele, and J. A. Thomas. 2017. Acoustic communication within ant societies and its mimicry by mutualistic and socially parasitic myrmecophiles. Animal Behaviour. 134:249-256. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.10.031