Exploratory behavior of Argentine Ants (Linepithema humile) encountering novel areas
When ants encounter a previously unexplored area, a variety of search patterns are possible. Previous studies have found that subsequent individuals tend to follow those that have gone before. This suggests that ants leave signature marks as they walk, independent of having encountered food, and that others recognize these and follow. This experiment tested if Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) also exhibit this pattern of behavior. Series of workers individually navigated through a grid consisting of two consecutive right-versus-left decisions. The resulting pattern does not significantly differ from random choice, as workers are neither more nor less likely to choose the path taken by a previous ant. The time between decisions also does not predict the path chosen. Either L. humile does not mark as they walk or workers do not use such marks in guiding their exploratory behavior. Under natural conditions, this suggests that L. humile is more expansive in initially distributing its workers across novel ground and less likely to have them clump together than species that do follow each other. This has implications for how the relative effectiveness in finding versus exploiting and defending food sites might vary across species.
KeywordsExploration Foraging Linepithema humile Trail marking
We wish to thank S. Salazar for help in running the trials and A. Martinez for help in collecting and maintaining the ants.
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