● Castolon [Loc 41] Big Bend N.P., TX USA [el. 660 m / 2164 ft] view location in Google Maps »
● 3/04/10 11:46AM sunny, air temp: 24°C / 76°F
Self-grooming behavior - Pogonomyrmex desertorum. [scroll down for additional notes/references]
These grooming actions not only remove fungus and other debris, but may also serve to spread antibiotic secretions over the ant's body. In many ant lineages, much of this bacteria-fighting substance is secreted from the metapleural gland, located on the ant's mesosoma, the 'middle' body part (also called the alitrunk). There is also evidence that some ants posses a gland that is incorporated in the 'antenna cleaner' itself. It is unclear if the secretions from this gland aid soley in the cleaning of the antenna, or serve as a means of chemical communication - or perhaps it fulfills both of these roles. As mentioned elsewhere on this site, grooming (and self-grooming) behaviors also distribute the chemical compounds ('cuticular hydrocabons') that allow ants to discriminate between nestmates and intruders, regulate worker tasks, and also permit identification of reproductive status between colony members.
·Fernández-Marín, H., J.K. Zimmerman, S.A. Rehner & W.T. Wcislo. 2006. Active Use of the Metapleural Gland by Ants in Controlling Fungal Infection. Proc. R. Soc. B (2006) 273, 1689–1695 doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3492 Published online 15 March 2006
·Greene, M.J. & D.M. Gordon. 2007. How Patrollers Set Foraging Direction in Harvester Ants. The American Naturalist, Vol. 170, No. 6, December 2007
·Hölldobler, B. & E.O. Wilson. 1990. The Ants. Cambridge, MA, Belknap/Harvard Press
·Schönitzer, K., H. Dott, R.R. Melzer. 1996. The Antenna Cleaner Gland in Messor rufitarsis (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Tissue and Cell, 1996 28(1) 107-113, Pearson Professional Ltd.
·Wagner, D.,M. Tissot, W. Cuevas, and D.M. Gordon. 2000. Harvester Ants Utilize Cuticular Hydrocarbons in Nestmate Recognition. Journal of Chemical Ecology, Vol. 26, No. 10, 2000 - Pogolumina - Pogonomyrmex Harvester Ants of North America