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Group recruitment in a thermophilic desert ant, Ocymyrmex robustior


Sommer, Stefan; Weibel, Denise; Blaser, Nicole; Furrer, Anna; Wenzler, Nadine E; Rössler, Wolfgang; Wehner, Rüdiger (2013). Group recruitment in a thermophilic desert ant, Ocymyrmex robustior. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 199(8):711-722.

Abstract

Thermophilic desert ants — Cataglyphis, Ocymyrmex, and Melophorus species inhabiting the arid zones of the Palaearctic region, southern Africa and central Australia, respectively — are solitary foragers, which have been considered to lack any kind of chemical recruitment. Here we show that besides mainly employing the solitary mode of food retrieval Ocymyrmex robustior regularly exhibits group recruitment to food patches that cannot be exploited individually. Running at high speed to recruitment sites that may be more than 60 m apart from the nest a leading ant, the recruiter, is followed by a loose and often quite dispersed group of usually 2–7 recruits, which often overtake the leader, or may lose contact, fall back and return to the nest. As video recordings show the leader, while continually keeping her gaster in a downward position, intermittently touches the surface of the ground with the tip of the gaster most likely depositing a volatile pheromone signal. These recruitment events occur during the entire diurnal activity period of the Ocymyrmex foragers, that is, even at surface temperatures of more than 60 °C. They may provide promising experimental paradigms for studying the interplay of orientation by chemical signals and path integration as well as other visual guidance routines.

Thermophilic desert ants — Cataglyphis, Ocymyrmex, and Melophorus species inhabiting the arid zones of the Palaearctic region, southern Africa and central Australia, respectively — are solitary foragers, which have been considered to lack any kind of chemical recruitment. Here we show that besides mainly employing the solitary mode of food retrieval Ocymyrmex robustior regularly exhibits group recruitment to food patches that cannot be exploited individually. Running at high speed to recruitment sites that may be more than 60 m apart from the nest a leading ant, the recruiter, is followed by a loose and often quite dispersed group of usually 2–7 recruits, which often overtake the leader, or may lose contact, fall back and return to the nest. As video recordings show the leader, while continually keeping her gaster in a downward position, intermittently touches the surface of the ground with the tip of the gaster most likely depositing a volatile pheromone signal. These recruitment events occur during the entire diurnal activity period of the Ocymyrmex foragers, that is, even at surface temperatures of more than 60 °C. They may provide promising experimental paradigms for studying the interplay of orientation by chemical signals and path integration as well as other visual guidance routines.

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4 citations in Web of Science®
4 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:August 2013
Deposited On:23 Jul 2013 14:07
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:52
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0340-7594
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-013-0830-x

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