The foraging behaviour of the common ant, 'Myrmica rubra' (L.)

McGlynn, Kevin. 1994. The foraging behaviour of the common ant, 'Myrmica rubra' (L.). Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis describes the foraging behaviour of the Myrmica rubra and determines the optimality of this behaviour. Food choice experiments determined that foragers' sensitivity to carbohydrates and amino acids was similar to those found in other species. Foragers collected high energy and amino acid rich foods preferentially. Foraging effort was concentrated in the areas which contained honeydew-providing aphid clusters. These high resource patches were also rich in scavenge items and invertebrate prey. The temporal distribution of foraging effort showed seasonal variation and varied with environmental conditions. The irregular pattern of nest exits indicated the influence of recruitment. The movements of foragers could be distinguished from non- foraging movements. There was considerable variation in movement pattern between foragers. Searching success was related to movement pattern. Also, environmental stress caused the foragers' movements to change; making them more like successful movements. There were differences between the movements of aphid-tenders and scavenging foragers. Recruitment was an important influence on all aspects of foraging behaviour. It exaggerated the choice made by individual ants in prefering more concentrated and more calorie-rich foods; it also shaped the temporal and spatial distributions of foraging and altered foraging movements. These results showed M. rubra to be an optimal forager, acting to maximize the benefit (an energetic reward with an amino acid constraint) accrued from foraging. This benefit maximization was evidenced by the selection of prefered food types, the matching of foraging distribution to high resource patches, and by movement pattern. Individual variation meant that some foragers did not conform to optimal foraging predictions (in the short term). However, it seems likely that such individual variation allows new food sources to be discovered. If recruitment is used to exploit these new resources the individual variation will have optimized the benefit to the whole colony.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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foraging behaviour, the Myrmica rubra, Food choice, the movements of aphid-tenders and scavenging foragers

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Date Deposited:

05 Jul 2023 11:30

Last Modified:

05 Jul 2023 12:00


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