Not everything that counts can be counted: Ants use multiple metrics for a single nest trait

NR Franks, A Dornhaus, BG Metherell, TR Nelson, SAJ Lanfear, WS Symes

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

58 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There are claims in the literature that certain insects can count. We question the generality of these claims and suggest that summation rather than counting (sensu stricto) is a more likely explanation. We show that Temnothorax albipennis ant colonies can discriminate between potential nest sites with different numbers of entrances. However, our experiments suggest that the ants use ambient light levels within the nest cavity to assess the abundance of nest entrances rather than counting per se. Intriguingly, Weber's Law cannot explain the ants' inaccuracy. The ants also use a second metric, independent of light, to assess and discriminate against wide entrances. Thus, these ants use at least two metrics to evaluate one nest trait: the configuration of the portals to their potential homes.
Translated title of the contributionNot everything that counts can be counted: Ants use multiple metrics for a single nest trait
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165 - 169
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume273 (1583)
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Royal Society

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