The alarm pheromone of the ant Camponotus obscuripes (Formicinae) was identified and quantified by gas chromatography (GC) and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Comparisons between alarm pheromone components and extracts from the major exocrine gland of this ant species revealed that the sources of its alarm pheromone are Dufour's gland and the poison gland. Most components of Dufour's gland were saturated hydrocarbons. n-Undecane comprised more than 90% of all components and in a single Dufour's gland amounted to 19 μg. n-Decane and n-pentadecane were also included in the Dufour's gland secretion. Only formic acid was detected in the poison gland, in amounts ranging from 0.049 to 0.91 μl. This ant species releases a mixture of these substances, each of which has a different volatility and function. When the ants sensed formic acid, they eluded the source of the odor; however, they aggressively approached odors of n-undecane and n-decane, which are highly volatile. In contrast, n-pentadecane, which has the lowest volatility among the identified compounds, was shown to calm the ants. The volatilities of the alarm pheromone components were closely related to their roles in alarm communication. Highly volatile components vaporized rapidly and spread widely, and induced drastic reactions among the ants. As these components became diluted, the less volatile components calmed the excited ants. How the worker ants utilize this alarm communication system for efficient deployment of their nest-mates in colony defense is also discussed herein.
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