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Spatial Heterogeneity and Nestmate Encounters Affect Locomotion and Foraging Success in the Ant Dorymyrmex goetschi

Authors

  • Hugo Torres-Contreras,

    1.  Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Faculdad de ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
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  • Rodrigo A. Vásquez

    1.  Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Faculdad de ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
    2.  Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
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Hugo Torres-Contreras, Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile. E-mail: htoresco@uchile.cl

Abstract

The spatial structure of habitats contains physical barriers that restrict the performance of diverse behavioural tasks. In heterogeneous habitats, information acquisition may allow animals to improve the performance of diverse activities such as foraging and locomotion. Nonetheless, changes in locomotion performance and their effects on the foraging success of animals have been scarcely studied. We examined these relationships in the harvester ant Dorymyrmex goetschi (subfamily Dolichoderinae) under laboratory conditions. In an experimental arena, we offered a food patch located at a fixed distance from the nest entrance. Landscape heterogeneity was created using wooden cubes arranged in different types of spatial distribution. We video recorded the behaviour of different colonies and quantified the number of active foragers, number of head contacts per capita per inbound trip, path length by workers that transported a food load from the resource patch to the nest, time invested in inbound travels, and the number of prey captured per colony. During the initial phase of patch exploitation, the number of foragers and prey captured were significantly lower than during the half and final phases of the experiment. Landscapes with greater spatial heterogeneity increased travel time and diminished locomotion velocity. A multiple regression analysis revealed that greater antennal contacts and locomotion velocities increased prey removal. Therefore, in this study, we documented a formal link between variables that characterize the movement paths of individuals and the foraging success of a colony. Information transfer between individuals generated a collective work with a concomitant improvement of food exploitation.

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