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The analysis of reverse tandem running of Temnothorax rugatulus colonies

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Collective decision making in social organism societies involves a large network of communication systems. Studying the processes behind the transmission of information allows for greater understanding of the decision making capabilities of a group. For Temnothorax rugatulus colonies, information is

Collective decision making in social organism societies involves a large network of communication systems. Studying the processes behind the transmission of information allows for greater understanding of the decision making capabilities of a group. For Temnothorax rugatulus colonies, information is commonly spread in the form of tandem running, a linear recruitment pattern where a leading ant uses a short-ranged pheromone to direct a following ant to a target location (in tandem).The observed phenomenon of reverse tandem running (RTR), where a follower is lead from a target back to the home nest, has not been as extensively studied as forward tandem running and transportation recruitment activities. This study seeks to explain a potential reason for the presence of the RTR behavior; more specifically, the study explores the idea that reverse tandem run followers are being shown a specific route to the home nest by a highly experienced and efficient leading ant. Ten colonies had migrations induced experimentally in order to generate some reverse tandem running activity. Once an RTR has been observed, the follower and leader were studied for behavior and their pathways were analyzed. It was seen that while RTR paths were quite efficient (1.4x a straight line distance), followers did not experience a statistically significant improvement in their pathways between the home and target nests (based on total distance traveled) when compared to similar non-RTR ants. Further, RTR leading ants were no more efficient than other non-RTR ants. It was observed that some followers began recruiting after completion of an RTR, but the number than changed their behavior was not significant. Thus, the results of this experiment cannot conclusively show that RTR followers are utilizing reverse tandem runs to improve their routes between the home and target nests.

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Date Created
2014-12

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Mechanisms for quorum sensing in Temnothorax

Description

Temnothorax ants are a model species for studying collective decision-making. When presented with multiple nest sites, they are able to collectively select the best one and move the colony there. When a scout encounters a nest site, she will spend

Temnothorax ants are a model species for studying collective decision-making. When presented with multiple nest sites, they are able to collectively select the best one and move the colony there. When a scout encounters a nest site, she will spend some time exploring it. In theory she should explore the site for long enough to determine both its quality and an estimate of the number of ants there. This ensures that she selects a good nest site and that there are enough scouts who know about the new nest site to aid her in relocating the colony. It also helps to ensure that the colony reaches a consensus rather than dividing between nest sites. When a nest site reaches a certain threshold of ants, a quorum has been reached and the colony is committed to that nest site. If a scout visits a good nest site where a quorum has not been reached, she will lead a tandem run to bring another scout there so that they can learn the way and later aid in recruitment. At a site where a quorum has been reached, scouts will instead perform transports to carry ants and brood there from the old nest. One piece that is missing in all of this is the mechanism. How is a quorum sensed? One hypothesis is that the encounter rate (average number of encounters with nest mates per second) that an ant experiences at a nest site allows her to estimate the population at that site and determine whether a quorum has been reached. In this study, encounter rate and entrance time were both shown to play a role in whether an ant decided to lead a tandem run or perform a transport. Encounter rate was shown to have a significant impact on how much time an ant spent at a nest site before making her decision, and encounter rates significantly increased as migrations progressed. It was also shown to individual ants did not differ from each other in their encounter rates, visit lengths, or entrance times preceding their first transports or tandem runs, studied across four different migrations. Ants were found to spend longer on certain types of encounters, but excluding certain types of encounters from the encounter rate was not found to change the correlations that were observed. It was also found that as the colony performed more migrations, it became significantly faster at moving to the new nest.

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Date Created
2013-05

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Variation in reflective flow and forager navigation, but not traffic rate, explain speed of obstruction circumnavigation on Atta colombica foraging trails

Description

Many species follow networked roads. When roads are blocked, the obstruction must be circumnavigated, or traffic rerouted. We obstructed trails of the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica and compared individual- and group-level circumnavigation as well as trail reuse following obstruction removal.

Many species follow networked roads. When roads are blocked, the obstruction must be circumnavigated, or traffic rerouted. We obstructed trails of the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica and compared individual- and group-level circumnavigation as well as trail reuse following obstruction removal. Groups that circumnavigated the obstruction fastest were also the first to return to the original trail once the obstruction was removed. Also, nestward ants returned to using the original trail more quickly than outbound ants. Traffic rate was not related to speed of obstacle solving. The magnitude of reflective flow (reversing direction) explained much of the variation in obstacle-solving time, both comparing nestward versus outbound ants and variation across obstacles. Two other factors explaining variation in obstacle circumnavigation times were percentage of nestward ants carrying leaves and whether ants searched in the appropriate direction for the trail beyond the obstruction, possibly due to variation in the availability of navigation cues or motivation. Reflective flow allows highly-networked leafcutter trails to respond to blockages by using alternative cleared routes, with strength of navigation cues and motivation linked to foraging costs and benefits likely determining the effort expended to “solve” the obstacle versus give up.

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Date Created
2020-05

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A recruit's dilemma: collective decision-making and information content in the ant Temnothorax rugatulus

Description

An insect society needs to share information about important resources in order to collectively exploit them. This task poses a dilemma if the colony must consider multiple resource types, such as food and nest sites. How does it allocate workers

An insect society needs to share information about important resources in order to collectively exploit them. This task poses a dilemma if the colony must consider multiple resource types, such as food and nest sites. How does it allocate workers appropriately to each resource, and how does it adapt its recruitment communication to the specific needs of each resource type? In this dissertation, I investigate these questions in the ant Temnothorax rugatulus.

In Chapter 1, I summarize relevant past work on food and nest recruitment. Then I describe T. rugatulus and its recruitment behavior, tandem running, and I explain its suitability for these questions. In Chapter 2, I investigate whether food and nest recruiters behave differently. I report two novel behaviors used by recruiters during their interaction with nestmates. Food recruiters perform these behaviors more often than nest recruiters, suggesting that they convey information about target type. In Chapter 3, I investigate whether colonies respond to a tradeoff between foraging and emigration by allocating their workforce adaptively. I describe how colonies responded when I posed a tradeoff by manipulating colony need for food and shelter and presenting both resources simultaneously. Recruitment and visitation to each target partially matched the predictions of the tradeoff hypothesis. In Chapter 4, I address the tuned error hypothesis, which states that the error rate in recruitment is adaptively tuned to the patch area of the target. Food tandem leaders lost followers at a higher rate than nest tandem leaders. This supports the tuned error hypothesis, because food targets generally have larger patch areas than nest targets with small entrances.

This work shows that animal groups face tradeoffs as individual animals do. It also suggests that colonies spatially allocate their workforce according to resource type. Investigating recruitment for multiple resource types gives a better understanding of exploitation of each resource type, how colonies make collective decisions under conflicting goals, as well as how colonies manage the exploitation of multiple types of resources differently. This has implications for managing the health of economically important social insects such as honeybees or invasive fire ants.

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Date Created
2019