Colony-size effects on task organization in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus

C. T. Holbrook, T. H. Eriksson, R. P. Overson, Juergen Gadau, Jennifer Fewell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    9 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Colony size is a fundamental attribute of insect societies that appears to play an important role in their organization of work. In the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus, division of labor increases with colony size during colony ontogeny and among unmanipulated colonies of the same age. However, the mechanism(s) integrating individual task specialization and colony size is unknown. To test whether the scaling of division of labor is an emergent epiphenomenon, as predicted by self-organizational models of task performance, we manipulated colony size in P. californicus and quantified short-term behavioral responses of individuals and colonies. Variation in colony size failed to elicit a change in division of labor, suggesting that colony-size effects on task specialization are mediated by slower developmental processes and/or correlates of colony size that were missing from our experiment. In contrast, the proportional allocation of workers to tasks shifted with colony size, suggesting that task needs or priorities depend, in part, on colony size alone. Finally, although task allocation was flexible, colony members differed consistently in task performance and spatial tendency across colony size treatments. Sources of interindividual behavioral variability include worker age and genotype (matriline).

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)191-201
    Number of pages11
    JournalInsectes Sociaux
    Volume60
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 2013

    Fingerprint

    Pogonomyrmex californicus
    polyethism
    size effect
    ant
    organization of work
    insect colonies
    ontogeny
    labor division
    genotype
    harvester ants
    testing

    Keywords

    • Colony size
    • Division of labor
    • Social scaling
    • Task allocation
    • Task specialization

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Insect Science
    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

    Cite this

    Colony-size effects on task organization in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus. / Holbrook, C. T.; Eriksson, T. H.; Overson, R. P.; Gadau, Juergen; Fewell, Jennifer.

    In: Insectes Sociaux, Vol. 60, No. 2, 2013, p. 191-201.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Holbrook, C. T. ; Eriksson, T. H. ; Overson, R. P. ; Gadau, Juergen ; Fewell, Jennifer. / Colony-size effects on task organization in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus. In: Insectes Sociaux. 2013 ; Vol. 60, No. 2. pp. 191-201.
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