Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Resource management in ant colonies may have lessons for politicians and economists

Date:
January 23, 2012
Source:
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Summary:
Political and economic theorists could learn lessons from studying how an ant colony allocates food resources, according to a new article.

Political and economic theorists could learn lessons from studying how an ant colony allocates food resources, according to the authors of a new paper.
Credit: © Antrey / Fotolia

Political and economic theorists could learn lessons from studying how an ant colony allocates food resources, according to the authors of a new paper recently published in the scientific journal The American Naturalist.

Related Articles


Many political systems use regulations and legislation to curb resource overexploitation. In the new study the scientists found that ant colonies can 'benefit' from an external 'parasite' which curbs resource overexploitation by resident queens, resulting in increased production of female offspring with queen potential. This increased number of 'potential new queens' implies a boost to colony efficiency and 'fitness' (or health).

The publication builds on six years of research carried out by a team from the University of Würzburg, Germany, the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the University of Oxford, UK , Rothamsted Research, UK, The University of Southampton, UK and Limerick University in Ireland.

The team first studied colonies of the ant Formica lemani concluding that ant colonies infested with larva of the predatory parasitic hoverfly Microdon mutabilis produced more new queens than uninfected colonies. These results were published in Ecology Letters in 2006. The next stage was to develop a theoretical model to simulate the probable mechanisms behind the increased production of potential new queens.

For potential new queens to develop successfully they need a specific level of resource. With many other worker larvae to feed food resources can be limited. Results from the 2006 study showed that the presence of the parasitic hoverfly reduces ant larvae numbers, thereby increasing the share of food available for each surviving larva including the potential new queens.

Predictions from the model created for the latest study indicate that predation on the young ant brood by the hoverfly could be responsible for an increase in the production of new queens, achieved through a re-routing of food resources.

Paper co-author Dr Karsten Schönrogge, an ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said, "The allocation of food resources within an ant colony has interesting parallels in the way we manage our society and environment in a sustainable manner. It is easy to visualise the 'Tragedy of the Commons' scenario unfolding within uninfected ant colonies, where a shared and limited resource is depleted through unregulated access resulting in over-exploitation to the detriment of society."

In an infected colony the presence of the hoverfly 'parasite' has a negative effect on total larva numbers, but it 'benefits' the colony as a whole with the net effect being a greater number of new potential queens than in a non-infected colony.

The model also predicts that the increase occurs only at the beginning of a Microdon infection period, and a reanalysis of the original results showed that this prediction is indeed supported by real world observations.

Dr Schönrogge added, "Ant foraging behaviour has previously been modelled by computer scientists and ecologists, resulting in the ant colony optimization algorithm (ACO), a major advance in the computing sector. Ants are one of the most successful animal groups on the planet and the next questions for ecologists and political theorists is how resource management within ant colonies might affect interactions with surrounding related or unrelated competing colonies and how that would be mirrored in human societies."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas Hovestadt, Jeremy A. Thomas, Oliver Mitesser, Graham W. Elmes, Karsten Schönrogge. Unexpected Benefit of a Social Parasite for a Key Fitness Component of Its Ant Host. The American Naturalist, 2012; 179 (1): 110 DOI: 10.1086/663203

Cite This Page:

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. "Resource management in ant colonies may have lessons for politicians and economists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120113205634.htm>.
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. (2012, January 23). Resource management in ant colonies may have lessons for politicians and economists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120113205634.htm
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. "Resource management in ant colonies may have lessons for politicians and economists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120113205634.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NY Gov. on Flood Prep: 'prepared for the Worst'

NY Gov. on Flood Prep: 'prepared for the Worst'

AP (Nov. 23, 2014) — First came the big storm. Now comes the big melt for residents of flood-prone areas around Buffalo. New York's governor says officials are preparing for the worst as the temperature is expected to rise and potentially melt several feet of snow. (Nov. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
European Parliament Might Call For Google's Break-Up

European Parliament Might Call For Google's Break-Up

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) — This is the latest development in an antitrust investigation accusing Google of unfairly prioritizing own products and services in search results. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) — Having children has always been a frightening prospect in Sierra Leone, the world's most dangerous place to give birth, but Ebola has presented an alarming new threat for expectant mothers. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) — Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

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