Main content area

Nest Digging by Leaf-Cutting Ants: Effect of Group Size and Functional Structures

Camargo, Roberto da Silva, Fujihara, Ricardo Toshio, Forti, Luiz Carlos
Psyche 2012 v.2012 no.426719 pp. 4
Atta sexdens rubropilosa, fungi, group effect, group size, leaf-cutting ants, leaves, progeny, worker ants
Leaf-cutting ant workers dig underground chambers, for housing their symbiotic fungus, interconnected by a vast quantity of tunnels whose function is to permit the entrance of food (leaves), gaseous exchanges, and movement of workers, offspring, and the queen. Digging is a task executed by a group of workers, but little is known about the group effect and group-constructed functional structures. Thus, we analyzed the structures formed by worker groups (5, 10, 20, and 40 individuals) of the leaf-cutting ant, Atta sexdens rubropilosa , for 2 days of excavation. The digging arena was the same for the 4 groups, with each group corresponding to a different density. Our results verified a pattern of tunneling by the workers, but no chamber was constructed. The group effect is well known, since the 40-worker group dug significantly more than the groups of 5, 10, and 20. These groups did not differ statistically from each other. Analysis of load/worker verified that workers of the smallest group carried the greatest load. Our paper demonstrates the group effect on the digging of nests, namely, that excavation is proportional to group size, but without emergence of a functional structure such as a chamber.