Home > Papers from 2013 > A glimpse of directional recruitment in ants

A glimpse of directional recruitment in ants

Although many ant species have very neat recruitment systems, in the form of their pheromone trail networks, some ant species – notably desert ants – do not use pheromone trails. Whether these ants have any other form of directional recruitment is a fascinating question. From this study of the foraging ecology of the Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti, we get a hint that pheromone-independent directional mass recruitment may exist. Nests of M. bagoti were surrounded by feeders with only one of them baited with protein. Ants that had discovered the protein feeder were temporarily captured and then released en masse. Subsequent arrivals at all feeders were recorded.  Occasionally, very great numbers of recruits (a hundredfold more than at other feeders!) were observed at the target feeder specifically. Odour markings and plumes can be discounted, leaving us with a strangely evocative question about how directional information is transmitted from knowledgeable workers to recruits.

Patrick Schultheiss, Sabine S Nooten (2013) Foraging patterns and strategies in an Australian desert ant. Austral Ecology

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