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Naturwissenschaften. 2007 Sep;94(9):787-90. Epub 2007 Apr 26.

An absence of aggression between non-nestmates in the bull ant Myrmecia nigriceps.

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Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia.


The ability of social insects to discriminate against non-nestmates is vital for maintaining colony integrity, and in most social insect species, individuals act aggressively towards non-nestmates that intrude into their nest. Our experimental field data revealed that intra-colony aggression in the primitive bulldog ant Myrmecia nigriceps is negligible; our series of bioassays revealed no significant difference in the occurrence of aggression in trials involving workers from the same, a close (less than 300 m) or a far (more than 1.5 km) nest. Further, non-nestmate intruders were able to enter the nest in 60% of our trials; a similar level was observed in trials involving nestmates. These results suggest that workers of M. nigriceps are either unable to recognize alien conspecifics or that the costs of ignoring workers from foreign colonies are sufficiently low to favor low levels of inter-colony aggression in this species.

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