Resource density regulates the foraging investment in higher termite species

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Abstract

1. Resource density can regulate the area that animals use. At low resource density, there is a conflict in terms of balance between costs of foraging and benefits acquired. The foraging of the higher termite Nasutitermes aff. coxipoensis consists of searching throughout trails and a building galleries phase. 2. In this study, a manipulative field experiment was used to test the hypothesis that colonies of N. aff. coxipoensis forage towards a more profitable balance between the establishment of trails and gallery construction at low resource density. 3. The experiment was conducted in north-eastern Brazil. Seven experimental plots were established with a continuous increase in resource density (sugarcane baits). Entire colonies of N. aff. coxipoensis were transplanted from their original sites to the experimental plot, totalling 35 nests. The number, branches and total length of trails and galleries were quantified. 4. The results show that N. aff. coxipoensis optimises its foraging output, intensifying the establishment of trails at the cost of gallery construction when resource density is low. The number of trails, the number of trail branches and the total length of trails decreased with increasing resource density. Interestingly, at low resource density, the search effort was concentrated on forming longer and a greater number of trails, a small proportion of which were converted into galleries. The opposite relationship was observed at high resource density. 5. These results suggest an optimisation of search efforts during foraging depending on resource density, a mechanism that may help researchers to understand the use of space by higher termite species.

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Almeida, C. S., Cristaldo, P. F., Desouza, O., Bacci, L., Florencio, D. F., Cruz, N. G., … AraÚjo, A. P. A. (2018). Resource density regulates the foraging investment in higher termite species. Ecological Entomology, 43(3), 371–378. https://doi.org/10.1111/een.12508

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