Matching Items (40)

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

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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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  • 2016-07-28

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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

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

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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

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

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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

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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Date Created
  • 2016-12

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Reunification Dynamics and Consensus Decisions in Temnothorax rugatulus

Description

Social insect colonies adeptly make consensus decisions that emerge from distributed interactions among colony members. How consensus is accomplished when a split decision requires resolution is poorly understood. I studied

Social insect colonies adeptly make consensus decisions that emerge from distributed interactions among colony members. How consensus is accomplished when a split decision requires resolution is poorly understood. I studied colony reunification during emigrations of the crevice-dwelling ant Temnothorax rugatulus. Colonies can choose the most preferred of several alternative nest cavities, but the colony sometimes initially splits between sites and achieves consensus later via secondary emigrations. I explored the decision rules and the individual-level dynamics that govern reunification using artificially split colonies. When monogynous colonies were evenly divided between identical sites, the location of the queen played a decisive role, with 14 of the 16 colonies reuniting at the site that held the queen. This suggests a group-level strategy for minimizing risk to the queen by avoiding unnecessary moves. When the queen was placed in the less preferred of two sites, all 14 colonies that reunited did so at preferred nest, despite having to move the queen. These results show that colonies balance multiple factors when reaching consensus, and that preferences for physical features of environment can outweigh the queen's influence. I also found that tandem recruitment during reunification is overwhelmingly directed from the preferred nest to the other nest. Furthermore, the followers of these tandem runs had a very low probability (5.7%) of also subsequently conducting transports.

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  • 2016-12

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The Decision Behavior of Ant Colonies in Response to an Ebbinghaus Illusion

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Evolutionary theory predicts that animal behavior is generally governed by decision rules (heuristics) which adhere to ecological rationality: the tendency to make decisions that maximize fitness in most situations the

Evolutionary theory predicts that animal behavior is generally governed by decision rules (heuristics) which adhere to ecological rationality: the tendency to make decisions that maximize fitness in most situations the animal encounters. However, the particular heuristics used by ant colonies of the genus Temnothorax and their propensity towards ecological rationality are up for debate. These ants are adept at choosing a nest site, making a collective decision based on complex interactions between the many individual choices made by workers. Colonies will migrate between nests either upon the destruction of their current home or the discovery of a sufficiently superior nest. This study offers a descriptive analysis of the heuristics potentially used in nest-site decision-making. Colonies were offered a choice of nests characterized by the Ebbinghaus Illusion: a perceptual illusion which effectively causes the viewer to perceive a circle as larger when it is surrounded by small circles than when that same circle is surrounded by large circles. Colonies were separated into two conditions: in one, they were given the option to move to a high-quality nest surrounded by poor-quality nests, and in the other they were given the option to move to a high-quality nest surrounded by medium-quality nests. The colonies in the poor condition were found to be more likely to move to the good nest than were colonies in the medium condition at a statistically significant level. That is, they responded to the Ebbinghaus Effect in the way that is normally expected. This result was discussed in terms of its implications for the ecological rationality of the nest-site choice behavior of these ants.

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  • 2014-05

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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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Association of olfactory learning with cuticular hydrocarbon discrimination in the ant Camponotus floridanus

Description

Communication amongst eusocial insect is key to their success. Ants rely on signaling to mediate many different functions within a colony such as policing and nest mate recognition. Camponotus floridanus

Communication amongst eusocial insect is key to their success. Ants rely on signaling to mediate many different functions within a colony such as policing and nest mate recognition. Camponotus floridanus uses chemosensory signaling in the form of cuticular hydrocarbons to regulate these functions. Each cuticular hydrocarbon profile contains numerous hydrocarbons, however it is yet to be seen if Camponotus floridanus can discriminate between linear hydrocarbons of similar length. Individual specimens were conditioned in three different ways: 5 conditioning with high concentration of sugar water (1;1 ratio), 1 conditioning with high concentration of sugar water, and 5 conditioning with low concentration of sugar water (1;4). Two linear hydrocarbons were use, C23 and C24, with C23 always being the conditioned stimulus. Specimens who were conditioned 5 times with high concentration of sugar water were the only group to show a significant response to the conditioned stimulus with a p-value of .008 and exhibited discrimination behavior 46% of the time. When compared 5 conditioning with high concentration to the other two testing conditioning groups, 1 conditioning with high concentration produced an insignificant p-value of .13 was obtained whereas when comparing it with 5 conditioning low concentration of sugar a significant p-value of .0132 was obtained. This indiciates that Camponotus floridanus are capable of discrimination however must be conditioned with high concentration of sugar water, while number of conditioning is insignificant.

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  • 2014-05

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Mechanisms of Emigration During Ant Inter-Colony Conflict

Description

Much like neighboring nations, living in close proximity can often lead to conflict over limited resources for social insect colonies. As with warring nations, conflicts among insect societies can also

Much like neighboring nations, living in close proximity can often lead to conflict over limited resources for social insect colonies. As with warring nations, conflicts among insect societies can also result in one colony attempting to invade the other. Though emigrations are common and well understood in social insects, the process of emigration in the context of conflict is not known. During emigrations of the ant Temnothorax rugatulus, colonies first employ the use of scouts, who search for new nest locations. These scouts then recruit naïve workers to these nests resulting in a ‘voting’ process through which colonies can collectively choose the best nest site. Once the decision is made, the selected nest is rapidly populated by workers who physically carry the queen(s), brood, and remaining naïve ants to the new nest. Invasions occurring during inter-colony conflicts bear a striking resemblance to this process. The state of the final nest suggested merged colonies, and statistical models were used to test for the likelihood of this. Here we test whether colonies of T. rugatulus use the same mechanisms during invasions as those used in emigrations by observing conflicts between colonies of T. rugatulus ants and tracking instances of scouting and recruitment, transport and changes in populations in each nest. Our results support the predicted order of behaviors starting with scouting, followed by recruitment and transport last. In addition, presence of the quorum rule, which determines the switch from recruitment to transport, is confirmed. Furthermore, evidence showed that the colonies were merged at the time of transport. While ant emigration patterns are well understood, there is a gap in understanding conflict driven emigrations/invasions. Our results serve to better understand conflict in social insects by further understanding the mechanisms used during conflicts.

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  • 2021-05

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Nestmate Recognition in Camponotus is Affected by the Structure of Added Hydrocarbons

Description

Olfactory discrimination tasks can provide useful information about how olfaction may have evolved by demonstrating which types of compounds animals will detect and respond to. Ants discriminate between nestmates and

Olfactory discrimination tasks can provide useful information about how olfaction may have evolved by demonstrating which types of compounds animals will detect and respond to. Ants discriminate between nestmates and non-nestmates by using olfaction to detect the cuticular hydrocarbons on other ants, and Camponotus floridanus have particularly clear and aggressive responses to non-nestmates. A new method of adding hydrocarbons to ants, the “Snow Globe” method was further optimized and tested on C. floridanus. It involves adding hydrocarbons and a solvent to a vial of water, vortexing it, suspending hydrocarbon droplets throughout the solution, and then dipping a narcotized ant in. It is hoped this method can evenly coat ants in hydrocarbon. Ants were treated with heptacosane (C27), nonacosane (C29), hentriacontane (C31), a mixture of C27/C29/C31, 2-methyltriacontane (2MeC30), S-3-methylhentriacontane (SMeC31), and R-3-methylhentriacontane (RMeC31). These were chosen to see how ants reacted in a nestmate recognition context to methyl-branched hydrocarbons, R and S enantiomers, and to multiple added alkanes. Behavior assays were performed on treated ants, as well as two untreated controls, a foreign ant and a nestmate ant. There were 15 replicates of each condition, using 15 different queenright colonies. The Snow Globe method successfully transfers hydrocarbons, as confirmed by solid phase microextraction (SPME) done on treated ants, and the behavior assay data shows the foreign control, SMeC31, and the mixture of C27/29/31 were all statistically significant in their differences from the native control. The multiple alkane mixture received a significant response while single alkanes did not, which supports the idea that larger variations in hydrocarbon profile are needed for an ant to be perceived as foreign. The response to SMeC31 shows C. floridanus can respond during nestmate recognition to hydrocarbons that are not naturally occurring, and it indicates the nestmate recognition process may simply be responding to any compounds not found in the colony profile and rather than detecting particular foreign compounds.

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Date Created
  • 2021-05