Ants move to improve

Colonies of Leptothorax albipennis emigrate whenever they find a superior nest site

Anna Dornhaus, N. R. Franks, R. M. Hawkins, H. N S Shere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

89 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A high-quality home can be a major factor determining fitness. However, when house hunting becomes necessary, animals might often face a speed-versus-accuracy trade-off and therefore be unable to survey their environment extensively for the optimum site. We found that the ant Leptothorax albipennis was able to correct errors made in such a hurried decision by continuing to survey even after a colony had settled in a nest site. Colonies moved from intact undisturbed nests to another nest site whenever the new nest site presented a sufficient improvement in nest quality. Thus, scout ants must be able to judge and compare the quality of the new, empty nest site with the one currently inhabited by the colony. Emigrations from intact nests were initiated by high numbers of ants recruited by tandem runs. This evidence may explain how a small number of scouts can motivate an entire colony to move when there is no immediate need to do so. Compared with their behaviour in emigrations from destroyed nests, the ants favoured even more strongly accuracy over speed, because they waited for a larger number of scouts to agree on one site before starting the emigration. They could do this without increased risk because the rest of the colony remained safely in the old nest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-963
Number of pages5
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume67
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes

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Leptothorax
nest site
nesting sites
ant
nest
Formicidae
nests
emigration
ant nests
hunting
trade-off
fitness
animal
animals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Ants move to improve : Colonies of Leptothorax albipennis emigrate whenever they find a superior nest site. / Dornhaus, Anna; Franks, N. R.; Hawkins, R. M.; Shere, H. N S.

In: Animal Behaviour, Vol. 67, No. 5, 05.2004, p. 959-963.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Dornhaus, Anna ; Franks, N. R. ; Hawkins, R. M. ; Shere, H. N S. / Ants move to improve : Colonies of Leptothorax albipennis emigrate whenever they find a superior nest site. In: Animal Behaviour. 2004 ; Vol. 67, No. 5. pp. 959-963.
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