Matching Items (47)

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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

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An intimate view of the unique architecture of Harpegnathos saltwater nest using aluminum nest casts

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Abstract:
Given the incredible variety in ant nest architecture, this experiment sought to evaluate how the nest architecture of Harpegnathos saltator differs from other species’ nests. To achieve the ability to evaluate the structure of H. saltator nest, we created

Abstract:
Given the incredible variety in ant nest architecture, this experiment sought to evaluate how the nest architecture of Harpegnathos saltator differs from other species’ nests. To achieve the ability to evaluate the structure of H. saltator nest, we created experimental colonies varying in size from 20, 40, 60, 80 workers of Harpegnathos saltator in five-gallon buckets of sand and then allowing the colonies to grow for four months and twelve days. To create the nest casts, we developed a charcoal kiln out of a galvanized trash can and used a ceramic crucible to hold the aluminum being melted. Using molten aluminum to create nest casts of each colony produced, we obtained three poorly developed nests and one decent nest. The decent nest cast, the 80 worker H. saltator nest, was lacking key features of H. saltator nests that have been excavated in the field. However, they do share many of the same structures such as the shaping of the chambers. The ability of the experimental colonies to excavate the soil provided in the buckets to them was likely halted by poor penetration of water into superficial layers of the soil, thus making the soil too difficult to excavate and form the structures that are key elements of the species nest architecture. Despite these key challenges which the colonies faced, the 80-worker colony showed extensive vertical development and did display features associated with natural H. saltator colonies. Thus, given the display of some key features associated with characteristics of the H. saltator nests excavated in the field, it can be said that with some modification to technique that this is a viable avenue for future study of nest architecture and colony structure.

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2019-05

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Quantifying Cost Savings of Pleometrosis and Haplometrosis: Excavation Labor of the Seed-HArvester Ant Pogonomyrmex californicus

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Studies of cooperation remain an important aspect in understanding the evolution of social cues and interactions. One example of cooperation is pleometrosis, an associative behavior of forming a colony with two unrelated, fertile queens. However, most ant species display haplometrosis,

Studies of cooperation remain an important aspect in understanding the evolution of social cues and interactions. One example of cooperation is pleometrosis, an associative behavior of forming a colony with two unrelated, fertile queens. However, most ant species display haplometrosis, the founding of a colony by a single queen. In these associations, the queen typically rejects cooperation. In populations of Pogonomyrmex californicus, both pleometrosis and haplometrosis exists. It is not clear how associative -metrosis became a practiced behavior since haplometrotic queens tend to fight. However, as fighting in pleometrotic queens became less frequent, this induces benefit, in terms of cost savings, in having associative behaviors. The hypothesis tested was nest excavation of pleometrotic queens show sociality, while haplometrotic queens show association independence. Isolated pleometrotic queens (P) showed low excavation rate at 2.72cm2/day, compared to the rate when the task was shared in (PP) nests, 4.57cm2/day. Nest area of the (P) queens were also affected during days 3 and 4 of the experiment, where there was presence of nest area decrease. Furthermore, the excavation session of (P) was the only one determined as significant between all other nests. Although the (P) queens have low values, they eventually reach a similar point as the other nests by day 6. However, the lack of haste in excavation leads to longer exposure to the elements, substituting the risk of losing cuticles in excavation for the risk of predation. For the haplometrotic queens, nests of (H) and (HH) displayed no significant difference in excavation values, leading to having social effect in their association.

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2019-05

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Feather morphological predictors of angle-dependent color changes in parrot plumage

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Among the most ornate animal traits in nature are the angle-dependent (i.e. iridescent) structural colors of many birds, beetles, and butterflies. Though we now have a solid understanding of the mechanisms, function, and evolution of these features in several groups,

Among the most ornate animal traits in nature are the angle-dependent (i.e. iridescent) structural colors of many birds, beetles, and butterflies. Though we now have a solid understanding of the mechanisms, function, and evolution of these features in several groups, less attention has been paid to the potential for angle-dependent reflectance in otherwise matte-appearing (i.e. not thought to be structurally colored) tissues. Here for the first time we describe non-iridescent angle-dependent coloration from the tail and wing feathers of several parrot species (Psittaciformes). We employed a novel approach \u2014 by calculating chromatic and achromatic contrasts (in just noticeable differences, JNDs) of straight and angled measurements of the same feather patch \u2014 to test for perceptually relevant angle-dependent changes in coloration on dorsal and ventral feather surfaces. We found, among the 15 parrot species studied, significant angle dependence for nearly all parameters (except chromatic JNDs on the ventral side of wing feathers). We then measured microstructural features on each side of feathers, including size and color of barbs and barbules, to attempt to predict interspecific variation in degree of angle-dependent reflectance. We found that hue, saturation, and brightness of feather barbs, barbule saturation, and barb:barbule coverage ratio were the strongest predictors of angle-dependent coloration. Interestingly, there was significant phylogenetic signal in only one of the seven angle-dependence models tested. These findings deepen our views on the importance of microscopic feather features in the production of directional animal coloration, especially in tissues that appear to be statically colored.

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2018-05

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Influence of Patrilines on Task Division in Pogonomyrmex californicus Colonies

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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

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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2017-05

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Design of Ant-Inspired Stochastic Control Policies for Collective Transport by Robotic Swarms

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In this paper, we present an approach to designing decentralized robot control policies that mimic certain microscopic and macroscopic behaviors of ants performing collective transport tasks. In prior work, we used a stochastic hybrid system model to characterize the observed

In this paper, we present an approach to designing decentralized robot control policies that mimic certain microscopic and macroscopic behaviors of ants performing collective transport tasks. In prior work, we used a stochastic hybrid system model to characterize the observed team dynamics of ant group retrieval of a rigid load. We have also used macroscopic population dynamic models to design enzyme-inspired stochastic control policies that allocate a robotic swarm around multiple boundaries in a way that is robust to environmental variations. Here, we build on this prior work to synthesize stochastic robot attachment–detachment policies for tasks in which a robotic swarm must achieve non-uniform spatial distributions around multiple loads and transport them at a constant velocity. Three methods are presented for designing robot control policies that replicate the steady-state distributions, transient dynamics, and fluxes between states that we have observed in ant populations during group retrieval. The equilibrium population matching method can be used to achieve a desired transport team composition as quickly as possible; the transient matching method can control the transient population dynamics of the team while driving it to the desired composition; and the rate matching method regulates the rates at which robots join and leave a load during transport. We validate our model predictions in an agent-based simulation, verify that each controller design method produces successful transport of a load at a regulated velocity, and compare the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

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2014-12-01

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A context-dependent alarm signal in the ant Temnothorax rugatulus

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Because collective cognition emerges from local signaling among group members, deciphering communication systems is crucial to understanding the underlying mechanisms. Alarm signals are widespread in the social insects and can elicit a variety of behavioral responses to danger, but the

Because collective cognition emerges from local signaling among group members, deciphering communication systems is crucial to understanding the underlying mechanisms. Alarm signals are widespread in the social insects and can elicit a variety of behavioral responses to danger, but the functional plasticity of these signals has not been well studied. Here we report an alarm pheromone in the ant Temnothorax rugatulus that elicits two different behaviors depending on context. When an ant was tethered inside an unfamiliar nest site and unable to move freely, she released a pheromone from her mandibular gland that signaled other ants to reject this nest as a potential new home, presumably to avoid potential danger. When the same pheromone was presented near the ants' home nest, they were instead attracted to it, presumably to respond to a threat to the colony. We used coupled gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to identify candidate compounds from the mandibular gland and tested each one in a nest choice bioassay. We found that 2,5-dimethylpyrazine was sufficient to induce rejection of a marked new nest and also to attract ants when released at the home nest. This is the first detailed investigation of chemical communication in the leptothoracine ants. We discuss the possibility that this pheromone's deterrent function can improve an emigrating colony's nest site selection performance.

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Date Created
2014-09-01

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The Effect of Park Educational Programs on Public Values, Knowledge of, and Attitudes toward Noncharismatic Species

Description

Current conservation practices are substantially biased towards large, charismatic animals and are influenced by public perceptions of different animals. Therefore, it is important to understand how these perceptions are formed and what factors influence them in order to promote equitable

Current conservation practices are substantially biased towards large, charismatic animals and are influenced by public perceptions of different animals. Therefore, it is important to understand how these perceptions are formed and what factors influence them in order to promote equitable conservation for all species. This study examines the effect of attending a park education program on public values, knowledge of, and attitudes towards a noncharismatic species. Data was collected from May through October 2016 at the Usery Mountain Regional Park "All About Scorpions" program. A four page, onsite, self-administered pre- and post-program survey was given to program attendees. An identical survey was given to hiking park visitors who had never attended the program as the control sample. Survey statements addressed participant's demographics, value of bugs, knowledge about scorpions, and attitudes toward scorpions. Data analysis was completed using paired t-tests to analyze any statistically significant changes in values, knowledge, and attitudes between pre- and post-participants. Independent sample t-tests were used to analyze the same between the control and pre-participants. The results showed no difference in the value of bugs for any of the survey participants. However, the program attendees had more positive attitudes and greater knowledge of scorpions than general park visitors, and attending the program further increased positive attitudes and knowledge. Contributions of the study are twofold: First, the results provide Usery with information regarding the influence of their public programs, along with how these programs can be improved to make a greater impact. Second, findings serve to extend the literature on what alters public perceptions and how educational programs can be used to change the current conservation mindset.

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2016-12

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Heritability of Elaborate Coloration in the Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor

Description

Two primary contexts for the adaptive evolution of bright coloration are competition for mates (i.e. mate choice) and avoiding predator attacks (i.e. warning coloration). Bright animal coloration can be iridescent, in which the surface appears to change color with changing

Two primary contexts for the adaptive evolution of bright coloration are competition for mates (i.e. mate choice) and avoiding predator attacks (i.e. warning coloration). Bright animal coloration can be iridescent, in which the surface appears to change color with changing viewing or illumination angle. Bright animal coloration can also be produced by pigments, which do not appear to change color with changing viewing or illumination angle. The Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor, is unique in having both sexual signals and warning coloration that include iridescent and pigment components, both of which are variable in color. The aim of our study was to examine the role genes play in producing this variation, providing us a sense of potential indirect benefits of female choice. We tested the hypothesis that color variation has a genetic component. We predicted that in a full-sib analysis there should be greater variation in the coloration of the sexual and warning signal among families than within families. We reared B. philenor under standard laboratory conditions and analyzed heritability using a full-sib analysis. We collected reflectance measurements for components of the sexual and warning signal iridescence using a spectrophotometer and used CLR (color analysis software) to extract brightness, hue, and chroma values. We used a multivariate ANOVA (IBM SPSS, v. 21) to analyze the warning signal variation, and a generalized linear mixed model (IBM SPSS, v. 21) to analyze the sexual versus warning signal variation in males. A significance value of 0.05 was used for both analyses. Our results indicated a genetic component to coloration, implicating indirect benefits in B. philenor female mate bias. Further research on bright coloration in B. philenor indicates that there may also be direct benefits of female mate choice.

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Date Created
2014-12

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The analysis of reverse tandem running of Temnothorax rugatulus colonies

Description

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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2014-12