Section 13
Chapter 12,955

Colony structure and spatial distribution of food resources in the polydomous meat ant Iridomyrmex purpureus

Van-Wilgenburg, E.; Elgar, M.A.

Insectes sociaux 54(1): 5-10


ISSN/ISBN: 0020-1812
DOI: 10.1007/s00040-007-0903-3
Accession: 012954738

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Polydomous social insects may reduce the costs of foraging by the strategic distribution of nests throughout their territory or home-range. This efficiency may most likely be achieved if the resources are relatively stable in place and time, and the colonies and nests are distributed in response to the location of the resources. However, no study has investigated how the distribution of food sources influences the spatial patterns of nests within polydomous colonies under natural conditions. Our two year study of 140 colonies of the Australian ant Iridomyrmex purpureus revealed that the decentralization of nests within colonies is associated with the distribution of trees containing honey-dew producing hemiptera. We show there is a positive correlation between the maximum distance between trees containing hemiptera and the maximum distance between nests within a colony. In addition, we demonstrate the mechanism by which this pattern may arise; new nests are built nearer to trees containing hemiptera than existing nests. Further, the distance between trees containing hemiptera and the nearest nests was negatively correlated with the length of exploitation of that tree. Finally, we show that most food is delivered to the nearest nest after which other ants redistribute it between the nests. Combined, these data suggest that foraging efficiency may be an important selection pressure favouring polydomy in I. purpureus.

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