A field experiment on the influence of load transportation and patch distance on the locomotion velocity of Dorymyrmex goetschi (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) (Englisch)

in Insectes Sociaux ; 51 , 3 ; 265-270
Insectes Sociaux
Birkhäuser-Verlag , Basel; 2004


Locomotion velocity during foraging activities is determined by factors such as travel distance, habitat structure and load mass among others. However, few studies on foraging behavior have analyzed the influence of spatial heterogeneity and food transportation on the locomotion velocity of ants under natural conditions. In order to study the mentioned factors, we selected 20 nests of the ant Dorymyrmex goetschi (subfamily Dolichoderinae), in a lower Andes locality of central Chile. Half of the nests were offered a food patch located at 10 cm from the nest entrance, and at 20 cm for the other half. We measured the duration of trips between nest and food patch and vice versa, and the distances traveled. We also recorded spatial heterogeneity of the substratum and soil temperature. Temperature was used as a covariate in the statistical analysis. Travel speed was significantly slower when worker ants returned to the nest with a food load, compared to the velocity of foragers without load that traveled from the nest to the patch. When the food patch was located at greater distance, locomotion velocity was significantly faster. Spatial heterogeneity did not affect movement speed. The reduction in locomotion velocity in ants carrying a load of 5.6 mg represents an energetic cost of transportation equivalent to 79% of the costs involved in moving a body mass of 1.6 mg. Faster velocities at larger patch distances can be interpreted as a strategy to maintain an efficient resource exploitation, by way of decreasing the time exposed to higher predation risk.

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