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Method Comparison for Odor Discrimination in Camponotus floridanus

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Complex animal societies consist of a plethora of interactions between members. To successfully thrive they must be able to recognize members and their kin, and to understand how they do this we need sufficient and reliable methods of testing. Eusocial

Complex animal societies consist of a plethora of interactions between members. To successfully thrive they must be able to recognize members and their kin, and to understand how they do this we need sufficient and reliable methods of testing. Eusocial insects are especially good at recognizing their nestmates, but the exact mechanism or how well they can discriminate is unknown. Ants achieve nestmate recognition by identifying varying proportions of cuticular hydrocarbons. Previous studies have shown ants can be trained to discriminate between pairs of hydrocarbons. This study aims to compare two methodologies previously shown to demonstrate odor learning to identify which one is the most promising to use for future odor learning experiments. The two methods tested were adapted from Sharma et al. (2015) and Guerrieri and d’Ettorre (2010). The results showed that the Guerrieri method demonstrated learning better and was more reliable and faster than the Sharma method. The Guerrieri method should be used in future experiments regarding odor learning discrimination

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2020-05

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Ants as a Model for Animal Communication: A Study of Ant Cuticular Hydrocarbons

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Across the animal kingdom, communication serves a vital purpose. The transfer of information between and among species is often paramount to many behaviors including mating, collaboration, and defense. While research has provided tremendous insight into animal communication and interaction, there

Across the animal kingdom, communication serves a vital purpose. The transfer of information between and among species is often paramount to many behaviors including mating, collaboration, and defense. While research has provided tremendous insight into animal communication and interaction, there is still much that we have yet to understand. Due to their reliance on interactions that maximize efficiency within their complicated colony structure and array of member roles, eusocial insects serve as an excellent model for animal communication. Among eusocial insects, ants are some of the most heavily researched, with a tremendous amount of literature focused on their cuticular hydrocarbons. Along with serving as a waterproofing agent, cuticular hydrocarbons also play a major role in recognition and communication in these insects. By studying the importance of hydrocarbons in ant social structure, their tremendously specialized olfactory system, and the use of learning assays in its study, parallels between communication in ants and other animals are revealed, demonstrating how ants serve as a relevant model for animal communication as a whole.

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2020-12

The Individual Contribution to Cooperative Transport in the ant Novomessor albisetosus

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The desert ant, Novomessor albisetosus, is an ideal model system for studying collective transport in ants and self-organized cooperation in natural systems. Small teams collect and stabilize around objects encountered by these colonies in the field, and the teams carry

The desert ant, Novomessor albisetosus, is an ideal model system for studying collective transport in ants and self-organized cooperation in natural systems. Small teams collect and stabilize around objects encountered by these colonies in the field, and the teams carry them in straight paths at a regulated velocity back to nearby nest entrances. The puzzling finding that teams are slower than individuals contrasts other cases of cooperative transport in ants. The statistical distribution of speeds has been found to be consistent with the slowest-ant model, but the key assumption that individual ants consistently vary in speed has not been tested. To test this, information is needed about the natural distribution of individual ant speeds in colonies and whether some ants are intrinsically slow or fast. To investigate the natural, individual-level variation in ants carrying loads, data were collected on single workers carrying fig seeds in arenas separated from other workers. Using three separate, small arenas, the instantaneous speed of each seed-laden worker was recorded when she picked up a fig seed and transported within the arena. Instantaneous speeds were measured by dividing the distance traveled in each frame by how much time had passed.
There were nine ants who transported a fig seed numerous times and there was a clear variation in their average instantaneous speed. Within an ant, slightly varying speeds were found as well, but within-ant speeds were not as varied as speed across ants. These results support the conclusion that there is intrinsic variation in the speed of an individual which supports the slowest-ant model, but this may require further experimentation to test thoroughly. This information aids in the understanding of the natural variation of ants cooperatively carrying larger loads in groups.

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2020-12