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Ant nutritional ecology: linking the nutritional niche plasticity on individual and colony-level to community ecology
- Feldhaar, Heike
- Current opinion in insect science 2014 v.5 pp. 25-30
- Formicidae, community structure, diet, foraging, larvae, nutrient intake, nutrient requirements, reproductives, social insects
- By contrast to solitary insects, nutrient intake in social insects has additional levels of complexity as foraging workers must not only collect food that meets their own nutritional needs but also that of other colony members such as larvae or reproductives that differ in nutritional needs. Current needs of a colony are relayed by a chain of demand from larvae to foragers. Ants are able to regulate nutrient intake to optimize colony-level fitness. Strongly imbalanced food sources can have detrimental effects though. Plasticity in nutritional niche (i.e. the ability to maintain high fitness even when strongly imbalanced diets are collected) may feed back into ant community structure by contributing to the niche of a species, limiting ant abundance and diversity.