Nav: Home

Study finds more tunnels in ant nests means more food for colony

October 20, 2015

A UC San Diego study of the underground "architecture" of harvester ant nests has found that the more connected the chambers an ant colony builds near the surface entrance, the faster the ants are able to collect nearby sources of food.

The reason is simple: Increased connectivity among chambers leads to more social interactions among the ants within the nest. So when one group of ants within a colony--comprised of individuals working toward a common goal--finds a particularly good source of food, it's able to more quickly communicate that finding to the rest of the colony.

"The volume of the chambers has little influence on the speed of recruitment, suggesting that the spatial organization of a nest has a greater impact on collective behavior than the number of workers it can hold," said Noa Pinter-Wollman, a biologist at UC San Diego who conducted the study, which was published in this week's issue of the journal Biology Letters.

Because these nests are occupied by extremely cooperative societies, she believes they can potentially inspire architectural designs that promote collaboration among humans.

"One straightforward lesson that will probably not surprise many architects is that having more corridors connecting offices or rooms will facilitate easier movement of people among them, both promoting interactions and expediting evacuation in emergency," she said. "However, a less obvious potential addition to this lesson would be that increasing the connectivity of locations with an important function, such as break rooms, where people interact--similar to the entrance chamber of the ants--could increase interactions and collaborations."

Noa Pinter-Wollman, a research scientist at UC San Diego's BioCircuits Institute, found that as both the connectivity of chambers within the ant nests and the redundancy of connections among chambers increase, so does a colony's speed of recruitment to food. Using a form of mathematical analysis known as "network theory," she analyzed the structures of different ant nests and related them to the collective behavior of the colonies residing in them--in this case, the foraging of harvester ants.

These native species of ants, known to scientists as Veromessor andrei, live in grasslands and chaparral throughout California, including San Diego. They frequently move into existing nests abandoned by other colonies that built those nests when they were young or "renovated" them after a rainstorm loosened the soil. The ants feed on seeds they collect from the ground or directly from plants, but will also bring back to their nests larger food items such as termites or caterpillars.

"My earlier work on this ant species showed that colonies change their collective behavior as they relocate among nest sites," said Pinter-Wollman. "I wanted to know what causes this change in behavior and one likely hypothesis was that the behavioral change was closely related to the nest site."

Studies conducted recently by other scientists had determined that finding food quickly was critical to the reproductive success of harvester ants. So Pinter-Wollman measured how rapidly ants were able to recruit their nest mates to a small piece of apple placed 10 to 15 centimeters from the entrance of 106 nest sites in the Elliot Chaparral Reserve near the UC San Diego campus.

With the assistance of two UC San Diego undergraduate environmental systems students, Annamarie Go and James Huettner, she tracked 28 harvester ant colonies, some of which occupied several nest sites. The team then obtained both behavioral data and plaster casts (which revealed the underground chambers and other structures) of 32 nest sites occupied by 17 different ant colonies.

Pinter-Wollman said her study was the first to find a link between a "naturally occurring nest architecture and the collective actions of the colony that resides in it." While more interconnected chambers near the entrance to the nest provides an advantage to food recruitment, she noted that there is also a downside to having too many chambers near the surface. Such an architecture could introduce structural instabilities that would cause the chambers to collapse during rains when the ground is softened, she noted.

"After a prolonged drought like the one we're experiencing in California, severe storms, such as those anticipated later this year, could cause flooding and destroy these upper structures," she said. "It would be interesting to see if, after the predicted El Niño, harvester ants build deeper chambers than they have in previous years."
-end-


University of California - San Diego

Related Behavior Articles:

Religious devotion as predictor of behavior
'Religious Devotion and Extrinsic Religiosity Affect In-group Altruism and Out-group Hostility Oppositely in Rural Jamaica,' suggests that a sincere belief in God -- religious devotion -- is unrelated to feelings of prejudice.
Brain stimulation influences honest behavior
Researchers at the University of Zurich have identified the brain mechanism that governs decisions between honesty and self-interest.
Brain pattern flexibility and behavior
The scientists analyzed an extensive data set of brain region connectivity from the NIH-funded Human Connectome Project (HCP) which is mapping neural connections in the brain and makes its data publicly available.
Butterflies: Agonistic display or courtship behavior?
A study shows that contests of butterflies occur only as erroneous courtships between sexually active males that are unable to distinguish the sex of the other butterflies.
Sedentary behavior associated with diabetic retinopathy
In a study published online by JAMA Ophthalmology, Paul D.
Curiosity has the power to change behavior for the better
Curiosity could be an effective tool to entice people into making smarter and sometimes healthier decisions, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
Campgrounds alter jay behavior
Anyone who's gone camping has seen birds foraging for picnic crumbs, and according to new research in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, the availability of food in campgrounds significantly alters jays' behavior and may even change how they interact with other bird species.
A new tool for forecasting the behavior of the microbiome
A team of investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the University of Massachusetts have developed a suite of computer algorithms that can accurately predict the behavior of the microbiome -- the vast collection of microbes living on and inside the human body.
Is risk-taking behavior contagious?
Why do we sometimes decide to take risks and other times choose to play it safe?
Neural connectivity dictates altruistic behavior
A new study suggests that the specific alignment of neural networks in the brain dictates whether a person's altruism was motivated by selfish or altruistic behavior.

Related Behavior Reading:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Second Edition: Basics and Beyond
by Judith S. Beck (Author), Aaron T. Beck (Foreword)

The leading text for students and practicing therapists who want to learn the fundamentals of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), this book is eminently practical and authoritative. In a highly accessible, step-by-step style, master clinician Judith S. Beck demonstrates how to engage patients, develop a sound case conceptualization, plan treatment, and structure sessions effectively. Core cognitive, behavioral, and experiential techniques are explicated and strategies are presented for troubleshooting difficulties and preventing relapse. An extended case example and many vignettes and... View Details


Consumer Behavior: Building Marketing Strategy
by David L Mothersbaugh Associate Professor of Marketing (Author), Delbert I Hawkins Dr (Author)

Consumer Behavior: Building Marketing Strategy builds on theory to provide students with a usable, strategic understanding of consumer behavior that acknowledges recent changes in internal and external influences, global marketing environments, and the discipline overall. Updated with strategy-based examples from an author team with a deep understanding of each principle's business applications, current and classic examples of both text and visual advertisements throughout the text will serve to engage students and bring the material to life. The 13th edition of Mothersbaugh/Hawkins is... View Details


Organizational Behavior (16th Edition)
by Stephen P. Robbins (Author), Timothy A. Judge (Author)

Long considered the standard for all organizational behavior textbooks, Organizational Behavior provides the research you want, in the language your students understand. This text continues its tradition of making current, relevant research come alive for students.

 

The Sixteenth Edition has been thoroughly updated to reflect the most current recent research for Organizational Behavior, while maintaining its hallmark features –clear writing style, cutting-edge content, and engaging pedagogy.... View Details


Behavior Modification: Principles and Procedures
by Raymond G. Miltenberger (Author)

BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION: PRINCIPLES AND PROCEDURES, Sixth Edition, uses a precise, step-by-step, scientific approach to explain human behavior. Case studies and examples illustrate key principles. View Details


Organizational Behavior: Improving Performance and Commitment in the Workplace
by Jason A Colquitt (Author), Jeffery A LePine Associate Professor Prof (Author), Michael J. Wesson Associate Professor Prof. (Author)

Now in its 5th edition, Colquitt-LePine-Wesson continues to offer a novel and innovative approach to teaching organizational behavior. The focus, tone, and organization of the book shows students that:

OB really matters - The book opens with two chapters barely covered in other texts: job performance and organizational commitment. Those topics are critical to manages and students alike, and represent two of the most critical outcomes in OB. Each successive chapter then links that chapter's topic back to those outcomes, illustrating why OB matters in... View Details


Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
by Robert M. Sapolsky (Author)

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal 

"It has my vote for science book of the year.” Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

"Hands-down one of the best books I’ve read in years. I loved it." —Dina Temple-Raston, The Washington Post

“It’s no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.” —David P. Barash, The Wall Street Journal


From the celebrated neurobiologist and primatologist, a... View Details


Dimensions of Human Behavior: The Changing Life Course
by Elizabeth D. Hutchison (Author)

In this Fifth Edition of her acclaimed text, Elizabeth D. Hutchison uses her multidimensional framework to examine the influences that can impact human behavior across time. Thoroughly updated to reflect the most recent developments in the field, the book weaves its hallmark case studies with the latest innovations in theory and research to provide a comprehensive and global perspective on all the major developmental life stages, from conception through very late adulthood.

 

Best Science Podcasts 2018We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.

Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Big Five
What are the five biggest global challenges we face right now — and what can we do about them? This hour, TED speakers explore some radical solutions to these enduring problems. Guests include geoengineer Tim Kruger, president of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband, political scientist Ian Bremmer, global data analyst Sarah Menker, and historian Rutger Bregman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#457 Trowel Blazing
This week we look at some of the lesser known historical figures and current public perception of anthropology, archaeology, and other fields that end in "ology". Rebecca Wragg Sykes, an archaeologist, writer, and co-founder of the TrowelBlazers, tells us about the Raising Horizons project and how their team is trying to shine the spotlight on the forgotten historical women of archaeological, geological, and palaeontological science. And Kristina Killgrove, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of West Florida and science writer, talks about the public perception of the fields of anthropology and archeology, and how those science are represented -...