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1.  Interactions with Combined Chemical Cues Inform Harvester Ant Foragers' Decisions to Leave the Nest in Search of Food 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52219.
Social insect colonies operate without central control or any global assessment of what needs to be done by workers. Colony organization arises from the responses of individuals to local cues. Red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) regulate foraging using interactions between returning and outgoing foragers. The rate at which foragers return with seeds, a measure of food availability, sets the rate at which outgoing foragers leave the nest on foraging trips. We used mimics to test whether outgoing foragers inside the nest respond to the odor of food, oleic acid, the odor of the forager itself, cuticular hydrocarbons, or a combination of both with increased foraging activity. We compared foraging activity, the rate at which foragers passed a line on a trail, before and after the addition of mimics. The combination of both odors, those of food and of foragers, is required to stimulate foraging. The addition of blank mimics, mimics coated with food odor alone, or mimics coated with forager odor alone did not increase foraging activity. We compared the rates at which foragers inside the nest interacted with other ants, blank mimics, and mimics coated with a combination of food and forager odor. Foragers inside the nest interacted more with mimics coated with combined forager/seed odors than with blank mimics, and these interactions had the same effect as those with other foragers. Outgoing foragers inside the nest entrance are stimulated to leave the nest in search of food by interacting with foragers returning with seeds. By using the combined odors of forager cuticular hydrocarbons and of seeds, the colony captures precise information, on the timescale of seconds, about the current availability of food.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052219
PMCID: PMC3540075  PMID: 23308106
2.  Colony variation in the collective regulation of foraging by harvester ants 
Behavioral Ecology  2011;22(2):429-435.
This study investigates variation in collective behavior in a natural population of colonies of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus. Harvester ant colonies regulate foraging activity to adjust to current food availability; the rate at which inactive foragers leave the nest on the next trip depends on the rate at which successful foragers return with food. This study investigates differences among colonies in foraging activity and how these differences are associated with variation among colonies in the regulation of foraging. Colonies differ in the baseline rate at which patrollers leave the nest, without stimulation from returning ants. This baseline rate predicts a colony's foraging activity, suggesting there is a colony-specific activity level that influences how quickly any ant leaves the nest. When a colony's foraging activity is high, the colony is more likely to regulate foraging. Moreover, colonies differ in the propensity to adjust the rate of outgoing foragers to the rate of forager return. Naturally occurring variation in the regulation of foraging may lead to variation in colony survival and reproductive success.
doi:10.1093/beheco/arq218
PMCID: PMC3071749  PMID: 22479133
behavioral reaction norm; behavioral syndrome; individual variation
3.  Chemically-Mediated Roostmate Recognition and Roost Selection by Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7781.
Background
The Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) is an exceptionally social and gregarious species of chiropteran known to roost in assemblages that can number in the millions. Chemical recognition of roostmates within these assemblages has not been extensively studied despite the fact that an ability to chemically recognize individuals could play an important role in forming and stabilizing complex suites of social interactions.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Individual bats were given a choice between three roosting pouches: one permeated with the scent of a group of roostmates, one permeated with the scent of non-roostmates, and a clean control. Subjects rejected non-roostmate pouches with greater frequency than roostmate pouches or blank control pouches. Also, bats chose to roost in the roostmate scented pouches more often than the non-roostmate or control pouches.
Conclusions/Significance
We demonstrated that T. brasiliensis has the ability to chemically recognize roostmates from non-roostmates and a preference for roosting in areas occupied by roostmates. It is important to investigate these behaviors because of their potential importance in colony dynamics and roost choice.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007781
PMCID: PMC2770117  PMID: 19901986

Results 1-3 (3)