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Nest architecture influences the colony organization of ants

Program in Applied Mathematics Brown Bag Seminar

Nest architecture influences the colony organization of ants
Series: Program in Applied Mathematics Brown Bag Seminar
Location: MATH 402
Presenter: Greg Chism, Entomology and Insect Science, University of Arizona

For some organisms, a near sessile life history mandates a strategic placement of where they live. Environmental constraints can be solved with an organism’s ‘extended phenotype’, or traits that extend into the environment: for example, in social insects, the nest, built by the colony, protects the colony from the external environment. Ants can thus change their local environments to the benefit of colony survival. Much attention has been given how organisms shape their extended phenotypes (e.g. nest architecture), while largely ignoring how organisms interpret them. The ant Temnothorax rugatulus provides an ideal model system to investigate the effects of nest architecture on colony organization, thus providing insight into the interactions between nest environment and its occupant. We tested the hypotheses that (i) nest architecture affects worker and brood spatial distribution, in particular (ii) that nest architecture would determine extent and distribution of spatial fidelity zones (‘micro-territories’) of workers in the nest, and that (iii) nest architectures promote different worker movement patterns. We use space syntax theory (structural accessibility) from human architectural research to determine the influence of spatial properties of the nest on the colony organization. Besides investigating the feedback between nest architecture and colony organization, our results may provide implications of nest accessibility on the behavior of the colony.