Not everything that counts can be counted: Ants use multiple metrics for a single nest trait

Nigel R. Franks, Anna Dornhaus, Bonnie G. Metherell, Toby R. Nelson, Sophie A.J. Lanfear, William S. Symes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

55 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There are claims in the literature that certain insects can count. We question the generality of these claims and suggest that summation rather than counting (sensu stricto) is a more likely explanation. We show that Temnothorax albipennis ant colonies can discriminate between potential nest sites with different numbers of entrances. However, our experiments suggest that the ants use ambient light levels within the nest cavity to assess the abundance of nest entrances rather than counting per se. Intriguingly, Weber's Law cannot explain the ants' inaccuracy. The ants also use a second metric, independent of light, to assess and discriminate against wide entrances. Thus, these ants use at least two metrics to evaluate one nest trait: the configuration of the portals to their potential homes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-169
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume273
Issue number1583
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 22 2006

Fingerprint

Ants
multiple use
ant
nest
Formicidae
nests
Temnothorax
Light
nesting sites
nest site
Experiments
Insects
cavity
insects
insect
experiment

Keywords

  • Ants
  • Counting
  • Decision-making
  • House hunting
  • Social insects
  • Weber's Law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Not everything that counts can be counted : Ants use multiple metrics for a single nest trait. / Franks, Nigel R.; Dornhaus, Anna; Metherell, Bonnie G.; Nelson, Toby R.; Lanfear, Sophie A.J.; Symes, William S.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 273, No. 1583, 22.01.2006, p. 165-169.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Franks, Nigel R. ; Dornhaus, Anna ; Metherell, Bonnie G. ; Nelson, Toby R. ; Lanfear, Sophie A.J. ; Symes, William S. / Not everything that counts can be counted : Ants use multiple metrics for a single nest trait. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2006 ; Vol. 273, No. 1583. pp. 165-169.
@article{7898cfd7717241748c4e3cdf408d4d41,
title = "Not everything that counts can be counted: Ants use multiple metrics for a single nest trait",
abstract = "There are claims in the literature that certain insects can count. We question the generality of these claims and suggest that summation rather than counting (sensu stricto) is a more likely explanation. We show that Temnothorax albipennis ant colonies can discriminate between potential nest sites with different numbers of entrances. However, our experiments suggest that the ants use ambient light levels within the nest cavity to assess the abundance of nest entrances rather than counting per se. Intriguingly, Weber's Law cannot explain the ants' inaccuracy. The ants also use a second metric, independent of light, to assess and discriminate against wide entrances. Thus, these ants use at least two metrics to evaluate one nest trait: the configuration of the portals to their potential homes.",
keywords = "Ants, Counting, Decision-making, House hunting, Social insects, Weber's Law",
author = "Franks, {Nigel R.} and Anna Dornhaus and Metherell, {Bonnie G.} and Nelson, {Toby R.} and Lanfear, {Sophie A.J.} and Symes, {William S.}",
year = "2006",
month = "1",
day = "22",
doi = "10.1098/rspb.2005.3312",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "273",
pages = "165--169",
journal = "Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological sciences",
issn = "0962-8436",
publisher = "Royal Society of London",
number = "1583",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Not everything that counts can be counted

T2 - Ants use multiple metrics for a single nest trait

AU - Franks, Nigel R.

AU - Dornhaus, Anna

AU - Metherell, Bonnie G.

AU - Nelson, Toby R.

AU - Lanfear, Sophie A.J.

AU - Symes, William S.

PY - 2006/1/22

Y1 - 2006/1/22

N2 - There are claims in the literature that certain insects can count. We question the generality of these claims and suggest that summation rather than counting (sensu stricto) is a more likely explanation. We show that Temnothorax albipennis ant colonies can discriminate between potential nest sites with different numbers of entrances. However, our experiments suggest that the ants use ambient light levels within the nest cavity to assess the abundance of nest entrances rather than counting per se. Intriguingly, Weber's Law cannot explain the ants' inaccuracy. The ants also use a second metric, independent of light, to assess and discriminate against wide entrances. Thus, these ants use at least two metrics to evaluate one nest trait: the configuration of the portals to their potential homes.

AB - There are claims in the literature that certain insects can count. We question the generality of these claims and suggest that summation rather than counting (sensu stricto) is a more likely explanation. We show that Temnothorax albipennis ant colonies can discriminate between potential nest sites with different numbers of entrances. However, our experiments suggest that the ants use ambient light levels within the nest cavity to assess the abundance of nest entrances rather than counting per se. Intriguingly, Weber's Law cannot explain the ants' inaccuracy. The ants also use a second metric, independent of light, to assess and discriminate against wide entrances. Thus, these ants use at least two metrics to evaluate one nest trait: the configuration of the portals to their potential homes.

KW - Ants

KW - Counting

KW - Decision-making

KW - House hunting

KW - Social insects

KW - Weber's Law

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=33745614552&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=33745614552&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1098/rspb.2005.3312

DO - 10.1098/rspb.2005.3312

M3 - Article

C2 - 16555783

AN - SCOPUS:33645800965

VL - 273

SP - 165

EP - 169

JO - Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological sciences

JF - Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological sciences

SN - 0962-8436

IS - 1583

ER -