Seasonality in communication and collective decision-making in ants

N Stroeymeyt, Caroline Jordan, Gregory Mayer, S Hovsepian, Martin Giurfa, N R Franks

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

16 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of animals to adjust their behaviour according to seasonal changes in their ecology is crucial for their fitness. Eusocial insects display strong collective behavioural seasonality, yet the mechanisms underlying such changes are poorly understood. We show that nest preference by emigrating Temnothorax albipennis ant colonies is influenced by a season-specific modulatory pheromone that may help tune decision-making according to seasonal constraints. The modulatory pheromone triggers aversion towards low-quality nests and enhances colony cohesion in summer and autumn, but not after overwintering-in agreement with reports that field colonies split in spring and reunite in summer. Interestingly, we show that the pheromone acts by downgrading the perceived value of marked nests by informed and naive individuals. This contrasts with theories of collective intelligence, stating that accurate collective decision-making requires independent evaluation of options by individuals. The violation of independence highlighted here was accordingly shown to increase error rate during emigrations. However, this is counterbalanced by enhanced cohesion and the transmission of valuable information through the colony. Our results support recent claims that optimal decisions are not necessarily those that maximize accuracy. Other criteria-such as cohesion or reward rate-may be more relevant in animal decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20133108
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1780
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2014


  • Animal Communication
  • Animals
  • Ants
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cues
  • Decision Making
  • Homing Behavior
  • Seasons


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