Matching Items (22)

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The foundress’s dilemma: group selection for cooperation among queens of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex californicus

Description

The evolution of cooperation is a fundamental problem in biology, especially for non-relatives, where indirect fitness benefits cannot counter within-group inequalities. Multilevel selection models show how cooperation can evolve if

The evolution of cooperation is a fundamental problem in biology, especially for non-relatives, where indirect fitness benefits cannot counter within-group inequalities. Multilevel selection models show how cooperation can evolve if it generates a group-level advantage, even when cooperators are disadvantaged within their group. This allows the possibility of group selection, but few examples have been described in nature. Here we show that group selection can explain the evolution of cooperative nest founding in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus. Through most of this species’ range, colonies are founded by single queens, but in some populations nests are instead founded by cooperative groups of unrelated queens. In mixed groups of cooperative and single-founding queens, we found that aggressive individuals had a survival advantage within their nest, but foundress groups with such non-cooperators died out more often than those with only cooperative members. An agent-based model shows that the between-group advantage of the cooperative phenotype drives it to fixation, despite its within-group disadvantage, but only when population density is high enough to make between-group competition intense. Field data show higher nest density in a population where cooperative founding is common, consistent with greater density driving the evolution of cooperative foundation through group selection.

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Date Created
  • 2016-07-28

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Information Processing in Social Insect Networks

Description

Investigating local-scale interactions within a network makes it possible to test hypotheses about the mechanisms of global network connectivity and to ask whether there are general rules underlying network function

Investigating local-scale interactions within a network makes it possible to test hypotheses about the mechanisms of global network connectivity and to ask whether there are general rules underlying network function across systems. Here we use motif analysis to determine whether the interactions within social insect colonies resemble the patterns exhibited by other animal associations or if they exhibit characteristics of biological regulatory systems. Colonies exhibit a predominance of feed-forward interaction motifs, in contrast to the densely interconnected clique patterns that characterize human interaction and animal social networks. The regulatory motif signature supports the hypothesis that social insect colonies are shaped by selection for network patterns that integrate colony functionality at the group rather than individual level, and demonstrates the utility of this approach for analysis of selection effects on complex systems across biological levels of organization.

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Date Created
  • 2012-07-16

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Influence of Patrilines on Task Division in Pogonomyrmex californicus Colonies

Description

Pogonomyrmex Californicus, a species of harvester ants, have polyandrous queens, meaning that each queen mates with multiple males before starting a colony. Genetic diversity derived from polyandry can provide fitness

Pogonomyrmex Californicus, a species of harvester ants, have polyandrous queens, meaning that each queen mates with multiple males before starting a colony. Genetic diversity derived from polyandry can provide fitness benefits to a social insect colony in several ways including an increase in behavioral flexibility of the work force. In some cases, P.californicus colonies can even exhibit polygyny, meaning that multiple queens cooperate to produce workers in a colony. In previous studies, the colony size, worker age, and genotypes of Pogonomyrmex californicus colonies were all found to influence task division to varying degrees, with matrilines appearing to only have influence within their respective colonies. These studies on matrilineal or induced variation and division of labor do not consider the effects of naturally occurring patrilineal variation, and it is unclear how exactly these two traits interact to influence colony function. In order to explore the influence of patriline on task division we raised single-queen P. californicus colonies in the lab and tested the effect of patriline on task performance in the workforce. Behavioral observations, and then genotypic data was collected and analyzed for one focal colony in the lab. The microsatellite data revealed a total of five identified patrilines among the observed workers and a Pearson chi-square test of independence showed a significant relationship between patriline and task performance. This suggests that polyandry alone can provide at least some of the benefits of genetic diversity to colony function. Further testing is needed to determine if the addition of cooperative queens may further increase genetic diversity in a colony and could supplement benefits to workforce performance. The benefits of genetic diversity may not be additive, though, in which case extra matrilines would not provide further benefit for the colony and would not then be a main driver of queen cooperation in this and other systems where polyandry and polygyny co-occur.

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Date Created
  • 2017-05

Reproductive Cheating in Harvester Ants - An Agent Based Model

Description

Pogonomyrmex californicus (a species of harvester ant) colonies typically have anywhere from one to five queens. A queen can control the ratio of female to male offspring she produces, field

Pogonomyrmex californicus (a species of harvester ant) colonies typically have anywhere from one to five queens. A queen can control the ratio of female to male offspring she produces, field research indicating that this ratio is genetically hardwired and does not change over time relative to other queens. Further, a queen has an individual reproductive advantage if she has a small reproductive ratio. A colony, however, has a reproductive advantage if it has queens with large ratios, as these queens produce many female workers to further colony success. We have developed an agent-based model to analyze the "cheating" phenotype observed in field research, in which queens extend their lifespans by producing disproportionately many male offspring. The model generates phenotypes and simulates years of reproductive cycles. The results allow us to examine the surviving phenotypes and determine conditions under which a cheating phenotype has an evolutionary advantage. Conditions generating a bimodal steady state solution would indicate a cheating phenotype's ability to invade a cooperative population.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2017-05

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The Explutrientoration of Macronutrient Regulation in the Desert Leafcutter

Description

Nutritional balance is a requirement for the survival of all species. This balance is important for complex eusocial organisms as it influences the growth and development of the colony. Leafcutter

Nutritional balance is a requirement for the survival of all species. This balance is important for complex eusocial organisms as it influences the growth and development of the colony. Leafcutter ants function as tri-trophic systems, harvesting mixed vegetation to cultivate a fungus garden that in return supplies the colony with food. Examining how the colony deals with nutrient balance is of particular interest because this species forages to provide nutrients for the fungus. There seems to be a feedback system between the fungus and the workers that influences how much of a particular macronutrient should be collected. The objective of this thesis study was to examine the foraging behavior of the desert leaf cutter ant, Acromyrmex versicolor. This study asked how nutrition, in particular the ratio of carbohydrates to proteins, influences the foraging behavior of the colony. It was hypothesized that given a choice of high protein and high carbohydrate diets the leafcutters would forage towards a balance ratio. The results from this experiment showed that A. versicolor forage towards a target ratio of protein to carbohydrate to based diets. This p:c ratio was calculated to be 1:6.2; 1 gram of protein to 6.2 grams of carbohydrate. When colonies were restricted to the high carbohydrate diet, they increased food consumption, consistent with the expectation that they would forage to reach their protein nutrient requirement, however, they reduced foraging on that diet. This suggests that ants avoid overconsuming protein, even when doing so provided more optimal carbohydrate intake. From this study I concluded that nutritional balance is a foraging goal for ant societies, similar to organisms. These results also open the question of how nutrient regulation by leafcutter ants is regulated around their mutualist relationship with another organism, the fungus.

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Date Created
  • 2015-12

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Inter-individual Variation in Nutrient Preference among Acromyrmex versicolor Foragers

Description

In order to survive, species must regulate their intake of nutrients. In desert leafcutter ant colonies, acquisition of nutrients is not only important for maintaining the health of the colony,

In order to survive, species must regulate their intake of nutrients. In desert leafcutter ant colonies, acquisition of nutrients is not only important for maintaining the health of the colony, but also for the survival of a fungus which the ants cultivate and then consume. This multi-trophic, symbiotic relationship is relatively unique to leafcutter ants and interesting to researchers due to the complexity of how the individual foragers supply nutrients to both the colony and the fungus. The objective of this experiment is to study foraging rates and variation in macronutrient preference among foragers from the same colony of the desert leafcutter ant Acromyrmex versicolor. This study asks if individual foragers vary in their preference of protein to carbohydrate ratios when compared to the overall nutrient content of the colony, and how do these individuals respond as the nutrient content of the available diets increasingly deviates from the previously determined nutritional intake target ratio between 1 Protein:6.3 Carbohydrates to 1 Protein:7.5 Carbohydrates. It was hypothesized that foragers express individualized nutritional preferences that in aggregate balance colony macronutrient consumption, and the number of individuals collecting the diets would decrease as the available nutritional diets deviated away from the colony-level intake target of approximately 1P:7C. The results show trends that support the hypothesis that the number of foraging instances and the number of foragers who exhibit individualized preference towards a certain protein to carbohydrate ratio is highest when the colony is presented with diets that are closest to the colony nutritional intake target.

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Date Created
  • 2018-05

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Division of labor and the regulation of house hunting and foraging in the rock cavity ant Temnothorax rugatulus.

Description

Division of labor among task specialists is a key feature of the organization of insect societies. Foraging and emigration are two distinct colony tasks that nonetheless depend on very similar

Division of labor among task specialists is a key feature of the organization of insect societies. Foraging and emigration are two distinct colony tasks that nonetheless depend on very similar behaviors, including searching outside the nest, evaluating discoveries, and recruiting nestmates. These subtasks are crucial to collective decisions about forager allocation and nest site selection. It remains unclear, however, whether the same ants are responsible for similar behavior in both contexts, and to what degree they show finer specializations among common subtasks. We are investigating these issues in the ant Temnothorax rugatulus, by making detailed behavioral descriptions of individually marked colonies as they forage and emigrate. There exists considerable heterogeneity among nest-movers, with a small proportion consistently responsible for a large share of recruitment. We found a similar pattern of heterogeneity amongst ants retrieving food during foraging, but had inconclusive results when examining recruitment to the food. It also appears that the ants that complete tasks during foraging are different from the ants that complete similar tasks during emigrations. These findings will shed light on the organization of division of labor and how it contributes to collective decision-making.

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Date Created
  • 2013-05

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Mathematical Modeling of Foundress Associations in Social Insects in Order to Understand Aggression in Cooperative Social Systems

Description

This project aims to better understand aggression in a cooperative social system, specifically within the ant species Pogonomyrmex Californicus. The queens of some populations of these ants form cooperative associations

This project aims to better understand aggression in a cooperative social system, specifically within the ant species Pogonomyrmex Californicus. The queens of some populations of these ants form cooperative associations of unrelated queens during nest foundation, while others prefer to form solitary nests and may show aggression towards unwanted nest mates. Because it is difficult to collect large amounts of data from a wild population and laboratory environments cannot capture the scale of nature, we created a computer simulation based on data collected in the lab and the field that emulates the life cycle of this species of ants. By manipulating behavioral and environmental conditions and observing the results we were able to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of showing aggression in this cooperative social system.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2016-05

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Modeling the Task Performance Dynamics of Social Insects

Description

Division of Labor among social insects is frequently discussed in regards to the colony's worker population. However, before a colony achieves a worker population, a queen is required to perform

Division of Labor among social insects is frequently discussed in regards to the colony's worker population. However, before a colony achieves a worker population, a queen is required to perform all of the tasks necessary for her survival: foraging, building the colony, and brood care. A simple ODE model was developed through the use of a framework of replicator equations in dynamical environments to investigate how queen ants perform and distribute all of the tasks necessary for her and her colony's survival by incorporating individual internal thresholds and environmental stimulus. Modi�cations to the internal threshold, risk of performing the task, and the rate of increase of the environmental stimulus were also explored. Because of the simplicity of the model, it could also be used to measure the task performance of larger populations of social insects. However, the model has only been applied to the data collected from Pogonomyrmex barbatus single queen ants.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2016-12

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Experience-determined seed preference in Pogonomyrmex californicus

Description

In our exponentially expanding world, the knowledge of a group versus that of an individual is more relevant than ever. Social insects have evolved to rely on the information

In our exponentially expanding world, the knowledge of a group versus that of an individual is more relevant than ever. Social insects have evolved to rely on the information from the collective, and in the case of harvester ants, their choice revolves around the best seeds to collect.
The objective of this experiment is to study a colony’s seed preference following previous exposure to a seed type in the seed harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus. It was hypothesized that foragers would demonstrate a measurable preference for the seed type they had previously experienced over the novel seed type. The cuticular hydrocarbon profile is suspected to be an influence in the foragers’ seed selection. Following an incubation period with the designated seed type, a series of preference trials were conducted over the course of two days for two experiments in which each colony fragment was given a seed pile with a 1:1 ratio of niger and sesame, after which any seeds moved off the seed pile were determined to be chosen, as well as if the workers were observed moving the seeds off the pile from the video recordings. Using video recordings, the seed selections of individual foragers were also tracked. The results partially support the hypothesis, however, in some cases, the ants did not collect enough seeds for the preference to be significant, and not all colony fragments had preferences that lined up with what they had previously experienced according to their treatment. Familiarity with the hydrocarbon profile of the seed type the colony had experienced is a possible proximal explanation for why colonies had seed preferences that aligned with their treatment, the seed they were designated to experience. Due to the low quantity of seeds collected during preference trials, seed preference amongst individual foragers remains unclear due to many different foragers selecting a seed during only one trial, with very few foragers returning to forage for seeds over the course of the experiment.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2019-05