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The role of multiple pheromones in food recruitment by ants
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Mathematics.
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2009 (English)In: Journal of Experimental Biology, ISSN 0022-0949, Vol. 212, no 15, 2337-2348 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper we investigate the foraging activity of an invasive ant species, the big headed ant Pheidole megacephala. We establish that the ants' behavior is consistent with the use of two different pheromone signals, both of which recruit nestmates. Our experiments suggest that during exploration the ants deposit a long-lasting pheromone that elicits a weak recruitment of nestmates, while when exploiting food the ants deposit a shorter lasting pheromone eliciting a much stronger recruitment. We further investigate experimentally the role of these pheromones under both static and dynamic conditions and develop a mathematical model based on the hypothesis that exploration locally enhances exploitation, while exploitation locally suppresses exploration. The model and the experiments indicate that exploratory pheromone allows the colony to more quickly mobilize foragers when food is discovered. Furthermore, the combination of two pheromones allows colonies to track changing foraging conditions more effectively than would a single pheromone. In addition to the already known causes for the ecological success of invasive ant species, our study suggests that their opportunistic strategy of rapid food discovery and ability to react to changes in the environment may have strongly contributed to their dominance over native species.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 212, no 15, 2337-2348 p.
Keyword [en]
ants, pheromone, recruitment, collective decision, dynamic environment, exploration
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-128358DOI: 10.1242/jeb.029827ISI: 000268136700014OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-128358DiVA: diva2:331387
Available from: 2010-07-22 Created: 2010-07-20 Last updated: 2011-02-28Bibliographically approved

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Sumpter, David J. T.
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