Forager activation and food availability in harvester ants

@article{Schafer2006ForagerAA,
  title={Forager activation and food availability in harvester ants},
  author={Robert J. Schafer and Susan P. Holmes and Deborah M. Gordon},
  journal={Animal Behaviour},
  year={2006},
  volume={71},
  pages={815-822}
}
We investigated how foragers are activated in colonies of the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus. Each day, a harvester ant forager makes many trips out of the nest to gather seeds and bring them back to the nest. The rate at which foragers return to the nest is linked to food availability: when food is easy to find, foragers return more quickly. We examined how the return of successful and unsuccessful foragers influences the rate at which inactive foragers are stimulated to leave the… 

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Examination of how behavioural processes operating at two timescales regulate the foraging activity of colonies of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, finds that the interaction rate experienced by outgoing foragers inside the nest corresponded to forager return rate, and that the interactions of outgoing forager were spatially clustered.
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It is found that ants in the entrance chamber that leave the nest to forage experienced more interactions than ants that descend to the deeper nest without foraging and that the availability of foragers in the entry chamber is associated with the rate of forager return.
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TLDR
Results show that regulation of foraging in harvester ants does not require any individuals to show others a particular location with abundant food, instead, a decentralized system of interactions tunes the numbers foraging to current food availability.
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TLDR
A decision model is developed in which ants make decisions based upon a noisy accumulation of individual contacts with returning foragers, which can reproduce core trends and realistic distributions for individual ant interaction statistics, and suggests possible mechanisms by which foraging activity may be regulated at an individual ant level.
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TLDR
Red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) regulate foraging using interactions between returning and outgoing foragers, and outgoing foragers inside the nest entrance are stimulated to leave the nest in search of food by interacting with foragers returning with seeds.
Colony variation in the collective regulation of foraging by harvester ants.
TLDR
This study investigates variation in collective behavior in a natural population of colonies of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, suggesting there is a colony-specific activity level that influences how quickly any ant leaves the nest.
How Patrollers Set Foraging Direction in Harvester Ants
TLDR
It is reported that a different process determines foraging direction in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus, where the patrollers regulate the direction taken by foragers each day by depositing Dufour’s secretions onto a sector of the nest mound about 20 cm long and leading to the beginning of a foraging trail.
Harvester Ant Colony Variation in Foraging Activity and Response to Humidity
TLDR
It is found that the effect of returning foragers on the rate of outgoing foragers increases with humidity, and there are consistent differences among colonies in foraging activity that persist from year to year.
Interaction rate informs harvester ant task decisions
TLDR
Results show that rate is a crucial source of information in the network of interactions among workers in the red harvester ant, and that the onset of foraging depends on the rate of patroller return.
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