Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

To Multiply, Ant Colonies Adapt To Environmental Conditions

Date:
July 9, 2008
Source:
CNRS
Summary:
By combining field work in Australia with mathematical modeling, scientists have shown that the quality and quantity of winged queens produced by colonies of the Rhytidoponera ant vary according to environmental conditions.

Minor size difference between a R. confusa queen (top, shown here after her wings were removed) and worker (bottom).
Credit: Copyright Derek Smith

By combining field work in Australia with mathematical modeling, three scientists from the laboratoire Fonctionnement et évolution des systèmes écologiques (CNRS/Université Pierre et Marie Curie/ENS Paris) have shown that the quality and quantity of winged queens produced by colonies of the Rhytidoponera ant vary according to environmental conditions. In certain cases, colonies even stop producing founding queens and spread solely by splitting up the colony.

Ants have colonized every habitat on land in part because they have a number of strategies for establishing new colonies.

Queens can found new colonies independently: after aerial dispersion, each queen produces her first workers alone. Alternatively, queens can leave their original colony accompanied by a group of workers. Known as “colony fission,” this method increases survival rates for queens because they are never alone.  However, because worker ants do not have wings, long distance dispersion is not possible.

The quality and quantity of winged queens produced by ants of the genus Rhytidoponera vary with environmental conditions, according to scientists from the laboratoire Fonctionnement et évolution des systèmes écologiques (CNRS/Université Pierre et Marie Curie/ENS Paris). They studied Rhytidoponera impressa, a group of carnivorous ants that hunts small insects and is found along the entire east coast of Australia.

The scientists collected ant colonies before nuptial flights and measured the metabolic reserves of the young queens. They found that colonies in tropical forests (in northern Australia) produce numerous, low quality queens (i.e. with poor metabolic reserves). In contrast, in southern temperate forests where harsher winters make the availability of prey less reliable, colonies produce fewer but heavier queens. These queens, with greater fat reserves, do not have to forage as much and thus have better survival rates.

In addition, the scientists found that if independent foundation of new colonies becomes ineffective, colonies multiply by splitting up the group. In this case, they do not produce more queens: since worker ants in this group can mate, they provide a less costly means of laying eggs than queens.

Mathematical modeling indicated that these changes in the colony’s reproductive strategy were caused by environmental parameters such as the quantity of food and environmental fluctuations. However, the scientists also found that there are more queens in nature than the model predicts (given that they can be “replaced” by worker ants), and this is probably due to the fact that queens add an important element to colonization in that they can disperse aerially.

 


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CNRS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Molet, M. Van Baalen, C. Peeters. Shift in Colonial Reproductive Strategy Associated with a Tropical-Temperate Gradient in Rhytidoponera Ants. The American Naturalist, 2008; 172 (1): 75 DOI: 10.1086/588079

Cite This Page:

CNRS. "To Multiply, Ant Colonies Adapt To Environmental Conditions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080704154143.htm>.
CNRS. (2008, July 9). To Multiply, Ant Colonies Adapt To Environmental Conditions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080704154143.htm
CNRS. "To Multiply, Ant Colonies Adapt To Environmental Conditions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080704154143.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

AP (Apr. 21, 2014) — Breakfast is now being served with a side of sticker shock. The cost of morning staples like bacon, coffee and orange juice is on the rise because of global supply problems. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) — A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) — Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) — Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins