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Exploration adjustment by ant colonies

Stumpe, Martin C.; Sendova-Franks, Ana; Stumpe, Martin; Doran, Carolina; Sendova-Franks, Ana B.; Franks, Nigel R.

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Martin C. Stumpe

Ana Sendova-Franks

Martin Stumpe

Carolina Doran

Ana B. Sendova-Franks

Nigel R. Franks


© 2016 The Authors. How do animals in groups organize their work? Division of labour, i.e. the process by which individuals within a group choose which tasks to perform, has been extensively studied in social insects. Variability among individuals within a colony seems to underpin both the decision over which tasks to perform and the amount of effort to invest in a task. Studies have focused mainly on discrete tasks, i.e. tasks with a recognizable end. Here, we study the distribution of effort in nest seeking, in the absence of new nest sites. Hence, this task is open-ended and individuals have to decide when to stop searching, even though the task has not been completed. We show that collective search effort declines when colonies inhabit better homes, as a consequence of a reduction in the number of bouts (exploratory events). Furthermore, we show an increase in bout exploration time and a decrease in bout instantaneous speed for colonies inhabiting better homes. The effect of treatment on bout effort is very small; however, we suggest that the organization of work performed within nest searching is achieved both by a process of self-selection of the most hard-working ants and individual effort adjustment.


Sendova-Franks, A., Stumpe, M. C., Doran, C., Stumpe, M., Sendova-Franks, A. B., & Franks, N. R. (2016). Exploration adjustment by ant colonies. Royal Society Open Science, 3(1), 150533.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 18, 2015
Publication Date Jan 1, 2016
Publicly Available Date Mar 3, 2016
Journal Royal Society Open Science
Electronic ISSN 2054-5703
Publisher Royal Society, The
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue 1
Pages 150533
Keywords exploration, division of labour, flexibility
Public URL
Publisher URL


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