The intramandibular gland of leaf-cutting ants (Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel 1908)
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The eusociality developed in Hymenoptera and Isoptera is driven by an efficient interaction between exocrine glands and jointed appendages, both in close interaction with the environment. In this context, the mandible of ants plays an important role, since, in addition to being the main jointed appendage, it possess glandular functions. As an example we might name the two glands associated with the mandible: the mandibular and the intramandibular glands. The intramandibular gland is found inside the mandible and consists of a hypertrophied secretory epithelium and secretory cells in the mandible's lumen. The secretion of the secretory epithelium is liberated through intracuticular ducts that open at the base of hairs at the mandible's surface. The secretion of the intramandibular gland (epithelium and secretory cells) reacted positively to tests for the detection of polysaccharides and proteins, thus suggesting that it consists of glycoproteins. The ultrastructure of the secretor epithelium presents variations related to the developmental stage of the individual, showing a large number of ribosomes and microvilli close to the cuticle in young individuals, while in the older specimens it was possible to note the formation of ail intracellular reservoir. These variations of secretory epithelium, as also the interaction between the cellular groups inside the mandible, are important information about this gland in leaf-cutting ants. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.