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Social administration of juvenile hormone to larvae increases body size and nutritional needs for pupation.

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Social insects often display extreme variation in body size and morphology within the same colony. In many species, adult morphology is socially regulated by workers during larval development. While larval nutrition may play a role in this regulation, it is often difficult to identify precisely what larvae receive from rearing workers, especially when larvae are fed through social regurgitation. Across insects, juvenile hormone is a major regulator of development. In the ant Camponotus floridanus, this hormone is present in the socially regurgitated fluid of workers. We investigated the role the social transfer of juvenile hormone in the social regulation of development. To do this, we administered an artificial regurgitate to larvae through a newly developed handfeeding method that was or was not supplemented with juvenile hormone. Orally administered juvenile hormone increased the nutritional needs of larvae, allowing them to reach a larger size at pupation. Instead of causing them to grow faster, the juvenile hormone treatment extended larval developmental time, allowing them to accumulate resources over a longer period. Handfeeding ant larvae with juvenile hormone resulted in larger adult workers after metamorphosis, suggesting a role for socially transferred juvenile hormone in the colony-level regulation of worker size over colony maturation.


Peer reviewed: True

Publication status: Published


handfeeding larva, juvenile hormone, social insects, social regulation of development, social transfer, trophallaxis

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R Soc Open Sci

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The Royal Society
Human Frontier Science Program (RGP0023/2022)
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (PR00P3_179776)
Novartis Stiftung für Medizinisch-Biologische Forschung (21C191)