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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 30;9(1):e79616. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079616. eCollection 2014.

Worker personality and its association with spatially structured division of labor.

Author information

1
Department of Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Zoology, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany.

Abstract

Division of labor is a defining characteristic of social insects and fundamental to their ecological success. Many of the numerous tasks essential for the survival of the colony must be performed at a specific location. Consequently, spatial organization is an integral aspect of division of labor. The mechanisms organizing the spatial distribution of workers, separating inside and outside workers without central control, is an essential, but so far neglected aspect of division of labor. In this study, we investigate the behavioral mechanisms governing the spatial distribution of individual workers and its physiological underpinning in the ant Myrmica rubra. By investigating worker personalities we uncover position-associated behavioral syndromes. This context-independent and temporally stable set of correlated behaviors (positive association between movements and attraction towards light) could promote the basic separation between inside (brood tenders) and outside workers (foragers). These position-associated behavior syndromes are coupled with a high probability to perform tasks, located at the defined position, and a characteristic cuticular hydrocarbon profile. We discuss the potentially physiological causes for the observed behavioral syndromes and highlight how the study of animal personalities can provide new insights for the study of division of labor and self-organized processes in general.

PMID:
24497911
PMCID:
PMC3907378
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0079616
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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