Hormonal correlates of reproductive status in the queenless ponerine ant, Streblognathus peetersi.
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In colonies of the queenless ant Streblognathus peetersi, dominance interactions produce a reproductive hierarchy in which one individual, the alpha, is capable of producing offspring while her subordinates remain infertile. Based on differences between behaviour and cuticular hydrocarbon profiles, the subordinates can be further divided into high and low ranking workers. Although it had been shown previously that alphas treated with a juvenile hormone analog lose their reproductive status, little was known of the endocrinological basis of dominance in this species. To elucidate the underlying endocrinology of these three ranks, we measured the individual in vitro rate of juvenile hormone (JH) production of excised corpora allata, and the ecdysteroid titer of pooled hemolymph samples. Production of JH was highest in low-ranking workers, intermediate in high rankers, and almost undetectable in alphas. Ecdysteroid titers were low for low rankers, but were more than twice as high for both high rankers and alphas. The results support the hypothesis that JH suppresses ovarian function in these queenless ants, and suggest that ecdysteroids may be responsible for stimulating vitellogenin production. The possible role of these hormones as behavioural modulators is also discussed.