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Size–abundance relationships in Florida ant communities reveal how ants break the energetic equivalence rule


Joshua R. King, Biology Department, Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley Street, New Britain, CT 06050, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. Ants are among the most abundant terrestrial organisms, yet little is known of how ant communities divide resources because it is difficult to measure the number of individuals in colonies and the density of colonies.

2. The body size–abundance relationships of the ants of five upland ecosystems in Florida were examined. The study tested whether abundance, energy use, and total biomass were distributed among species and body sizes as predicted by Damuth's energetic equivalence rule. Estimates of average worker body size, colony size, colony mass, and field metabolic rates were used to examine the relationships among body sizes, energy use, and total biomass.

3. Analyses revealed significant variation in energy use and did not support the energetic equivalence hypothesis. Specifically, the energy use and total standing biomass of species with large workers and colonies was much greater than smaller species.

4. These results suggest that larger species with larger colonies account for a disproportionate fraction of the total abundance and biomass of ants. A general model of resource allocation in colonies provides a possible explanation for why ants do not conform to the predictions of the energetic equivalence rule and for why ants are so abundant.