Biogenic amines and collective organization in a superorganism: Neuromodulation of social behavior in ants

J. Frances Kamhi, James F A Traniello

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The ecological dominance of ants has to a great extent been achieved through their collective action and complex social organization. Ants provide diverse model systems to examine the neural underpinnings of individual behavior and group action that contribute to their evolutionary success. Core elements of ant colony structure such as reproductive and ergonomic division of labor, task specialization, and social integration are beginning to be understood in terms of cellular neuroanatomy and neurochemistry. In this review we discuss the neuroethology of colony organization by focusing on the role of biogenic amines in the control of social behavior in ants. We examine the role of neuromodulation in significant sociobiological characteristics of ants, including reproductive hierarchies, colony foundation, social food flow, nestmate recognition, territoriality, and size- and age-related sensory perception and task performance as well as the involvement of monoamines in collective intelligence, the ultimate key to the global dominance of these remarkable superorganisms. We conclude by suggesting future directions for the analysis of the aminergic regulation of behavior and social complexity in ants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-236
Number of pages17
JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Aminergic regulation
  • Collective intelligence
  • Communication
  • Division of labor
  • Dopamine
  • Neuromodulation
  • Octopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Social brain


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