The Multifunctional Role of the Mandibular Gland Secretion of an Australian Desert Ant, Calomyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)4


  • Dr. Elaine J. Brough

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Zoology, Monash University
      Department of Zoology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia.
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    • 3

      Department of Biology, The University of Papua New Guinea, Box 4820, University Post Office, Papua (New Guinea).

  • 4

    The subject species is referred to by its generic name alone because of the difficulties in the nomenclature of the genus as discussed by BROUGH (1976). Voucher specimens have been lodged with the Australian National Insect Collection as Calomyrmex sp. No. 1 ANIC (? spendidus).

Department of Zoology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia.


The inline image of a desert species of Calomyrmex possess large mandibular glands which contain a brightly coloured secretion.

This study investigates the role of the gland as part of the alarm/defence system of the species. The alarm promoting properties of the secretion are demonstrated. The defensive role of the secretion is studied from three aspects; the possible toxicity towards other insects; the repellent and/or repugnant properties towards another ant species; the responses of insectivorous vertebrates to Calomyrmexinline image and to other food items, some of which are treated by application of the secretion prior to presentation. The significance of the colour of the secretion is also discussed.