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Optimization, conflict, and nonoverlapping foraging ranges in ants.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
The American naturalist
Publication Date
Volume
162
Issue
5
Pages
529–543
Identifiers
PMID: 14618533
Source
Medline

Abstract

An organism's foraging range depends on the behavior of neighbors, the dynamics of resources, and the availability of information. We use a well-studied population of the red harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus to develop and independently parameterize models that include these three factors. The models solve for an allocation of foraging ants in the area around the nest in response to other colonies. We compare formulations that optimize at the colony or individual level and those that do or do not include costs of conflict. Model predictions were compared with data collected on ant time budgets and ant density. The strategy that optimizes at the colony level but neglects costs of conflict predicts unrealistic levels of overlap. In contrast, the strategy that optimizes at the individual level predicts realistic foraging ranges with or without inclusion of conflict costs. Both the individual model and the colony model that includes conflict costs show good quantitative agreement with data. Thus, an optimal foraging response to a combination of exploitation and interference competition can largely explain how individual foraging behavior creates the foraging range of a colony. Deviations between model predictions and data indicate that colonies might allocate a larger than optimal number of foragers to areas near boundaries between foraging ranges.

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