Dynamics of aggregation in Lasius niger (Formicidae): Influence of polyethism

  • Depickère S
  • Fresneau D
  • Deneubourg J
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Polyethism is a well-known phenomenon in social insects. How this phenomenon influences interactions among individuals, the spatial distribution in the nest is, on the other hand. very rarely documented. Therefore, we conducted experiments on the ant Lasius niger to observe the influence of polyethism on aggregation, by distinguishing two groups of ants: the brood-tenders and the foragers. We show a great difference in their self aggregation level. Brood-tenders are characterized by a rapid and dense gathering in one main stable cluster while foragers gather in several small unstable clusters. We show experimentally and verify with a model that this difference in behaviour is based on a smaller probability of leaving a cluster for the brood-tenders. Aggregation in the mixed case (groups composed of brood-tenders and foragers) is very close to that of the pure forager case, showing a decrease in the level of aggregation of the brood-tenders respecting to the pure group of brood-tenders. Nevertheless. experimental results supported by the results of the model, show that ants do not change their own behaviour when the two groups are together. Therefore, the decrease of the aggregation of brood-tenders in the mixed case can be explained by a difference in the dynamics between brood-tenders and foragers.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Aggregation
  • Ants
  • Lasius niger
  • Pattern
  • Polyethism

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  • S. Depickère

  • D. Fresneau

  • J. L. Deneubourg

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