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Anim Behav. 2000 Feb;59(2):433-441.

Mechanisms of dispersed central-place foraging in polydomous colonies of the Argentine ant.

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Department of Biology, University of California, San Diego


Many species of ants occupy multiple nests, a condition known as polydomy. Because of their decentralized structure, polydomous colonies may be removed from some of the constraints associated with classic central-place foraging. We used laboratory and field experiments to assess the mechanisms involved in dispersed central-place foraging in polydomous colonies of the Argentine ant Linepithema humile, a widespread invasive species. Both in the laboratory and in the field, Argentine ants established new nests at sites located near food. Laboratory colonies of L. humile redistributed workers, brood and resources among nests in response to the spatial heterogeneity of food resources. In addition, laboratory colonies formed recruitment trails between nests in the context of foraging, providing a mechanism for the transport of material between nests. This highly flexible system of allocating nests, workers and brood throughout a colony's foraging area potentially increases foraging efficiency and competitive ability. The importance of polydomy as a determinant of competitive ability is underscored by its prevalence among ecologically dominant ants, including most, if not all, highly invasive species.


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