Division of labour within teams of New World and Old World army ants

Nr. Franks et al., Division of labour within teams of New World and Old World army ants, ANIM BEHAV, 62, 2001, pp. 635-642
Citations number
Categorie Soggetti
Animal Sciences","Neurosciences & Behavoir
Journal title
ISSN journal
0003-3472 → ACNP
Year of publication
635 - 642
SICI code
In army ants, prey items are often retrieved by cooperative teams of worker s rather than by single porters. We used experiments and randomization test s to explore the division of labour within such teams in the New World army ant Eciton burchelli, and the Old World army ant Dorylus wilverthi. We eva luated these teams in the light of a recent proposal that teams should be d efined in terms of the concurrent performance of different subtasks by thei r members. This is a broader and more useful definition of teams than a pre vious one in which teams were defined by a membership necessarily involving different castes. Within army ant teams there is a front runner who initia tes prey retrieval and one or more followers. Hence, there are two qualitat ively different subtasks that must be performed concurrently during such te amwork. Previous work has shown that these teams are superefficient: the co mbined weight of the prey retrieved by the team is greater than the sum of the maximum weights the team members could carry when working singly. Here we show, for both species of army ant, that such teams have a nonrandom com position of members. The front runner is typically unusually large and the second-largest ant in a team is typically unusually small. These analyses a re based on worker dry weights rather than assigning, workers to discrete c aste categories. Our analysis also suggests that the behaviour of army ants is more sophisticated then previously suspected. Our data imply that if an unnecessarily large supplementary ant (follower) tries to help the front r unner to move a large prey item, but finds that the remaining work is too s light to use her full efforts, she does not join the team. One or more smal ler ants whose efforts become fully employed become involved instead. This suggests that army ants engaged in teamwork have both upper and lower workl oad thresholds. (C) 2001 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.