Lifespan behavioural and neural resilience in a social insect

Ysabel Milton Giraldo*, J. Frances Kamhi, Vincent Fourcassié, Mathieu Moreau, Simon K.A. Robson, Adina Rusakov, Lindsey Wimberly, Alexandria Diloreto, Adrianna Kordek, James F.A. Traniello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Analyses of senescence in social species are important to understanding how group living influences the evolution of ageing in society members. Social insects exhibit remarkable lifespan polyphenisms and division of labour, presenting excellent opportunities to test hypotheses concerning ageing and behaviour. Senescence patterns in other taxa suggest that behavioural per- formance in ageing workers would decrease in association with declining brain functions. Using the ant Pheidole dentata as a model, we found that 120-day-old minor workers, having completed 86% of their laboratory lifespan, showed no decrease in sensorimotor functions underscoring complex tasks such as alloparenting and foraging. Collaterally, we found no age-associated increases in apoptosis in functionally specialized brain compartments or decreases in synaptic densities in the mushroom bodies, regions associa- ted with integrative processing. Furthermore, brain titres of serotonin and dopamine—neuromodulators that could negatively impact behaviour through age-related declines—increased in old workers. Unimpaired task performance appears to be based on the maintenance of brain functions supporting olfaction and motor coordination independent of age. Our study is the first to comprehensively assess lifespan task performance and its neurobiological correlates and identify constancy in behavioural performance and the absence of significant age-related neural declines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20152603
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1822
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • ants
  • neurodegeneration
  • task performance
  • senescence
  • biogenic amines


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