Division of labor and structural plasticity in an extrinsic serotonergic mushroom body neuron in the ant Pheidole dentata

Ysabel Milton Giraldo, Ekta Patel, Wulfila Gronenberg, James F.A. Traniello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Worker polyphenisms in ants enable insightful analyses of neuronal underpinnings of division of labor, a crucial aspect of animal social organization. In the ant Pheidole dentata, which has a dimorphic worker caste, serotonin titer increases in the brain with age, modulating pheromonal recruitment communication and foraging, behaviors characteristic of mature individuals. Serotonin-immunoreactive (5HT-IR) neurons are found in the mushroom bodies (MB) and may modulate multi-sensory information processing associated with cues and social signals guiding task performance. The volume of this neuropil correlates with worker subcaste and age in P. dentata, but the role of structural variation in individual extrinsic MB neurons in division of labor in ants is poorly understood. We tested the hypothesis that branching complexity in a 5HT-IR calyx input neuron (CIN) in the MBs increases with age in minor workers of P. dentata in association with task repertoire expansion. We further predicted that major workers, which are defense specialists, have less elaborate CIN axonal arbors at any age in comparison to minor workers, which are task generalists. Contrary to our predictions, immunohistochemical and morphometric analyses revealed significantly greater CIN branching in both newly eclosed and mature major workers, and identified an effect of worker age on branching complexity only in majors. Our results indicate a modulatory role of the CIN in subcaste-specific behaviors and suggest behavioral specialization may be associated with the elaboration of specific MB neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-111
Number of pages5
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 8 2013


  • Biogenic amine
  • Brain miniaturization
  • Division of labor
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neuroplasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Division of labor and structural plasticity in an extrinsic serotonergic mushroom body neuron in the ant Pheidole dentata'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this