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A social mechanism facilitates ant colony emigrations over
different distances

Wilson-Aggarwal, Deraj K.; O'Shea-Wheller, Thomas A.; Edgley, Duncan E.; Franks, Nigel R.; O'Shea-Wheller, Thomas; Wilson-Aggarwal, Deraj; Edgley, Duncan; Franks, Nigel; Sendova-Franks, Ana B.


Deraj K. Wilson-Aggarwal

Thomas A. O'Shea-Wheller

Duncan E. Edgley

Nigel R. Franks

Thomas O'Shea-Wheller

Deraj Wilson-Aggarwal

Duncan Edgley

Nigel Franks

Ana B. Sendova-Franks


© 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. Behavioural responses enable animals to react rapidly to fluctuating environments. In eusocial organisms, such changes are often enacted at the group level, but may be organised in a decentralised fashion by the actions of individuals. However, the contributions of different group members are rarely homogeneous, and there is evidence to suggest that certain 'keystone' individuals are important in shaping collective responses. Accordingly, investigations of the dynamics and structuring of behavioural changes at both the group and individual level are crucial for evaluating the relative influence of different individuals. Here, we examined the composition of tandem running behaviour during colony emigrations in the ant species Temnothorax albipennis. Tandem running is modulated in response to emigration distance, with more runs being conducted when a more distant nest site must be reached. We show that certain individuals are highly active in the tandem running process, attempting significantly more work in the task. Contrary to expectations, however, such individuals are in fact no more successful at conducting tandem runs than their less active nest mates. Instead, it seems that when more tandem runs are required, colonies rely on greater recruitment of workers into the process. The implications of our study are that in some cases, even when apparently 'key' individuals exist within a group, their relative contribution to task performance may be far from decisive.


different distances. Journal of Experimental Biology, 219, 3439-3446.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 22, 2016
Online Publication Date Nov 2, 2016
Publication Date Sep 9, 2016
Journal Journal of Experimental Biology
Print ISSN 0022-0949
Publisher Company of Biologists
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 219
Pages 3439-3446
Keywords heterogeneity, collective behaviour, self-organisation,
sociobiology, temnothorax albipennis
Public URL
Publisher URL


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