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Colony variation in the collective regulation of foraging by harvester ants

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  • Deborah M. Gordon
  • Adam Guetz
  • Michael J. Greene
  • Susan Holmes

Abstract

This study investigates variation in collective behavior in a natural population of colonies of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus. Harvester ant colonies regulate foraging activity to adjust to current food availability; the rate at which inactive foragers leave the nest on the next trip depends on the rate at which successful foragers return with food. This study investigates differences among colonies in foraging activity and how these differences are associated with variation among colonies in the regulation of foraging. Colonies differ in the baseline rate at which patrollers leave the nest, without stimulation from returning ants. This baseline rate predicts a colony's foraging activity, suggesting there is a colony-specific activity level that influences how quickly any ant leaves the nest. When a colony's foraging activity is high, the colony is more likely to regulate foraging. Moreover, colonies differ in the propensity to adjust the rate of outgoing foragers to the rate of forager return. Naturally occurring variation in the regulation of foraging may lead to variation in colony survival and reproductive success. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Deborah M. Gordon & Adam Guetz & Michael J. Greene & Susan Holmes, 2011. "Colony variation in the collective regulation of foraging by harvester ants," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(2), pages 429-435.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:2:p:429-435
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/beheco/arq218
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