Warmer mid-day temperatures increase leaf intake by increasing forager speed and success in Atta colombica during the rainy season

L. E. Welch, K. M. Baudier, J. F. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Predicting the effects of climatic warming on social insects remains an important challenge. While warming is known to speed many rate processes, the acute effects of temperature on performance under field conditions remain poorly studied. The effects of temperature are usually nonlinear, and tropical animals have been predicted to be particularly likely to be negatively affected by global warming as they may have optimal temperatures that are close to current ambient temperatures. We observed three different A. colombica colonies three times per day (two times during daylight hours and one time at night) during June 2018 in Gamboa, Panama, measuring air temperature, ant traffic, intake of leaves per second, and ant walking speeds. We found that ant walking speed and intake of leaves increased at higher temperatures. Leaves carried per ant also increased with temperature, suggesting that warmer temperatures improve leaf-handling rates, at least over the thermal range studied here. However, there was also an independent effect of time of day, with higher foraging in the morning than the evening, despite similar air temperatures. Consistent with the positive effect of temperature on foraging rates, critical thermal maxima were well above ground temperatures. At least during the rainy season, our data suggest that moderate warming could enhance foraging success and herbivory of leafcutting ants in semi-deciduous moist forests throughout much of the day.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-219
Number of pages7
JournalInsectes Sociaux
Volume67
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Keywords

  • Climate
  • Foraging
  • Leafcutter
  • Neotropics
  • Running speed
  • Thermal tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science

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