The spongiform tissue in Strumigenys ants contains exocrine glands

Chu Wang, Fu Ya Chung, Chung Chi Lin, Joshua C. Gibson, Sara McGuire, Andrew V. Suarez, Johan Billen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The insect cuticle is multifunctional and often includes projections used for support, communication or protection. Ants in the genus Strumigenys exhibit a peculiar honeycomb-like spongiform tissue that covers their petiole, postpetiole and sometimes also the posterior mesosoma and anterior part of the first gastral segment. The tissue is abundantly developed in workers and queens, and much reduced in males. We found this spongiform tissue is associated with a novel exocrine gland that is made up by class-3 secretory cells that are clustered underneath the major pillars of the cuticular extensions, their associated narrow ducts enter these extensions and open at the surface through small pores. The chemical nature and function of the secretion are still unknown. The honeycomb texture may act in the storage and dispersion of the glandular secretions. In addition to the spongiform tissue gland, the posterior region of the petiole and postpetiole also contain intersegmental petiole and postpetiole glands, of which the ducts open through the intersegmental membrane that forms the connection with the next segment. Future work aimed at identifying the chemicals secreted by these glands will shed light onto the function of these unusual structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101246
JournalArthropod Structure and Development
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Formicidae
  • Intersegmental petiole gland
  • Intersegmental postpetiole gland
  • Petiole
  • Postpetiole
  • Spongiform tissue gland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Insect Science


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