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Sci Rep. 2015 Dec 21;5:18650. doi: 10.1038/srep18650.

Contact rate modulates foraging efficiency in leaf cutting ants.

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Université Fédérale de Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées, UPS Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale-UMR 5169, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse cedex 9, France.
CNRS Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale - UMR 5169, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse cedex 9, France.


Lane segregation is rarely observed in animals that move in bidirectional flows. Consequently, these animals generally experience a high rate of head-on collisions during their journeys. Although these collisions have a cost (each collision induces a delay resulting in a decrease of individual speed), they could also have a benefit by promoting information transfer between individuals. Here we explore the impact of head-on collisions in leaf-cutting ants moving on foraging trails by artificially decreasing the rate of head-on collisions between individuals. We show that head-on collisions do not influence the rate of recruitment in these ants but do influence foraging efficiency, i.e. the proportion of ants returning to the nest with a leaf fragment. Surprisingly, both unladen and laden ants returning to the nest participate in the modulation of foraging efficiency: foraging efficiency decreases when the rate of contacts with both nestbound laden or unladen ants decreases. These results suggest that outgoing ants are able to collect information from inbound ants even when these latter do not carry any leaf fragment and that this information can influence their foraging decisions when reaching the end of the trail.

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