Nest-seeking rock ants (Temnothorax albipennis) trade off sediment packing density and structural integrity for ease of cavity excavation

Nicholas J. Minter*, Ana B. Sendova-Franks, Nigel R. Franks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We investigated excavation and nest site choice across sediment-filled cavities in the ant Temnothorax albipennis. Colonies were presented with sediment-filled cavities, covering a spectrum from ones that should be quick to excavate but will form a weak enclosing wall to those that should be slow to excavate but form a strong wall. Overall, colonies only showed a significant preference for cavities that were fastest to excavate over those that were slowest. The speed of decision making and moving appears paramount over the suitability of the sediment for forming an enclosing wall. The mechanism behind the choice is the differential between the rates at which alternatives are excavated and accumulate ants. The rates for a particular type of cavity were unaffected by the type with which it was paired. This suggests that there is no significant competition between sites during the decision-making process. Certain colonies were able consistently to discriminate across more closely matched alternatives. These colonies required a greater number of ants to be present and took longer before beginning to move. A race is run between alternatives to become habitable but the process may be tuned across colonies such that it may run for longer and an incorrect or split decision is less likely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1745-1756
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume67
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

Keywords

  • Self-organization
  • Collective decision
  • Nest excavation
  • Intercolony variation
  • Temnothorax albipennis
  • COLLECTIVE DECISION-MAKING
  • LEAF-CUTTING ANTS
  • SITE SELECTION
  • ECOSYSTEM ENGINEERS
  • SOCIAL-ORGANIZATION
  • BUILDING MATERIAL
  • CONSTRUCTION
  • CHOICE
  • SOIL
  • COLONIES

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