Why do not all workers work? Colony size and workload during emigrations in the ant Temnothorax albipennis

Anna Dornhaus, Jo Anne Holley, Victoria G. Pook, Gemma Worswick, Nigel R. Franks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Scopus citations

Abstract

Here, we study distribution of workload and its relationship to colony size among worker ants of Temnothorax albipennis, in the context of colony emigrations. We find that one major aspect of workload, number of items transported by each worker, was more evenly distributed in larger colonies. By contrast, in small colonies, a small number of individuals perform most of the work in this task (in one colony, a single ant transported 57% of all items moved in the emigration). Transporters in small colonies carried more items to the new nest per individual and achieved a higher overall efficiency in transport (more items moved per transporter and unit time). Our results suggest that small colonies may be extremely dependent on a few key individuals. In studying colony organisation and division of labour, the amount of work performed by each individual, not just task repertoire (which tasks are performed at all), should be taken into account.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-51
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume63
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2008

Keywords

  • Collective behaviour
  • Colony size
  • Division of labor
  • Elitism
  • Social insects
  • Specialisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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