IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Experience-dependent flexibility in collective decision making by house-hunting ants

Listed author(s):
  • Nathalie Stroeymeyt
  • Elva J.H. Robinson
  • Patrick M. Hogan
  • James A.R. Marshall
  • Martin Giurfa
  • Nigel R. Franks
Registered author(s):

    When making a decision, solitary animals often adjust to local conditions by using flexible evaluation and decision criteria, even though these may occasionally lead to irrationality. By contrast, collective decision making in large animal groups--such as, nest choice by emigrating ant colonies--is usually considered to rely on robust, fixed preference rules and to be immune to irrationality. Here, we show that familiarization with available nest sites prior to emigration can lead to flexible collective decisions in the house-hunting ant Temnothorax albipennis. Colonies allowed to inspect a mediocre nest site while their home nest is still intact usually develop an aversion toward that nest. We found that aversion strength was not determined by the quality of the familiar nest only but was also influenced by the quality of the home nest. As a result, nest choice in later emigrations depended strongly on the quality of the previously experienced home nest, allowing colonies to adjust to the local quality of available sites. Additionally, we found that in a worst-case scenario where the only alternatives are of even lower quality, developing an aversion toward a mediocre nest can occasionally lead to poor collective decisions. We discuss whether the observed flexibility in collective choices necessarily requires experience-dependent changes in individual decision criteria and develop a new analytical model of nest choice in house-hunting ants showing that a fixed-threshold decision strategy at the individual level can lead to experience-dependent, flexible decisions at the colony level. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by International Society for Behavioral Ecology in its journal Behavioral Ecology.

    Volume (Year): 22 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 ()
    Pages: 535-542

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:3:p:535-542
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, UK

    Fax: 01865 267 985
    Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:3:p:535-542. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press)

    or (Christopher F. Baum)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.