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Group-Level Exploration Tactics in Fire Ants

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This study investigates how fire ant (Solenopsis inuicta) colonies explore and patrol a new region. Small platforms were introduced into nest boxes of laboratory colonies. The paths of ants walking on the platforms were filmed at 30 min after the platforms were introduced, and at 3 75-min intervals thereafter. The results showed: 1. There are four distinct path types used by patrollers in the new region. The different types vary with respect to speed, number of antennal contacts, and the extent to which paths maintain a single direction. 2. Head widths of individuals differ significantly according to path type. 3. In the course of several hours after the new region is introduced, there is a temporal pattern in the numbers of paths of each type. 4. Removal experiments suggest that temporal patterns in the numbers performing on, path type, depend on numbers previously performing other path types. 5. The behavior of individuals exploring a new region is constrained by colony-level patterns of behavior.

Affiliations: 1: Museum of Comparative Zoology and Society of Fellows, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, U.S.A.


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