Characterizing the collective personality of ant societies: Aggressive colonies do not abandon their home

Inon Scharf, Andreas P. Modlmeier, Stephan Fries, Claire Tirard, Susanne Foitzik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Animal groups can show consistent behaviors or personalities just like solitary animals. We studied the collective behavior of Temnothorax nylanderi ant colonies, including consistency in behavior and correlations between different behavioral traits. We focused on four collective behaviors (aggression against intruders, nest relocation, removal of infected corpses and nest reconstruction) and also tested for links to the immune defense level of a colony and a fitness component (per-capita productivity). Behaviors leading to an increased exposure of ants to micro-parasites were expected to be positively associated with immune defense measures and indeed colonies that often relocated to other nest sites showed increased immune defense levels. Besides, colonies that responded with low aggression to intruders or failed to remove infected corpses, showed a higher likelihood to move to a new nest site. This resembles the trade-off between aggression and relocation often observed in solitary animals. Finally, one of the behaviors, nest reconstruction, was positively linked to per-capita productivity, whereas other colony-level behaviors, such as aggression against intruders, showed no association, albeit all behaviors were expected to be important for fitness under field conditions. In summary, our study shows that ant societies exhibit complex personalities that can be associated to the physiology and fitness of the colony. Some of these behaviors are linked in suites of correlated behaviors, similar to personalities of solitary animals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere33314
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 26 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Characterizing the collective personality of ant societies: Aggressive colonies do not abandon their home'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this