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The effect of social information on the collective choices of ant colonies

Burns, Dominic D.R.; Burns, Dominic; Sendova-Franks, Ana B.; Franks, Nigel R.


Dominic D.R. Burns

Dominic Burns

Ana B. Sendova-Franks

Nigel R. Franks


© 2016 The Author. In collective decision making, groups collate social information to inform their decisions. Indeed, societies can gather more information than individuals - so social information can be more reliable than private information. Colonies of Temnothorax albipennis can estimate the average quality of fluctuating nest sites when the sharing of social information through recruitment is rare. However, collective decisions in T. albipennis are often reached with the use of recruitment. We use a new experimental setup to test how colonies react to fluctuating nest sites when they use recruitment to reach a decision. When recruitment is used, colonies consistently choose nest sites that fluctuate between being "good" and "poor" over constantly "mediocre" alternatives. Moreover, they do so even if the fluctuating option is only "good" for 25% of the time. The ants' preference for fluctuating nest sites appears to be due to tandem running. Even if a nest site is only briefly "good," scouts that experience it when it is "good" are likely to perform tandem runs to it. However, a constantly "mediocre" nest site is unlikely to ever provoke tandem runs. Consequently, the fluctuating nest sites attracted more tandem runs, even when they were only "good" for a short time. This led to quorum attainment in fluctuating nest sites rather than in constant "mediocre" nest sites. The results of this experiment demonstrate how sharing of social information through recruitment can change the outcome of collective decisions.


Burns, D. D., Burns, D., Sendova-Franks, A. B., & Franks, N. R. (2016). The effect of social information on the collective choices of ant colonies. Behavioral Ecology, 27(4), 1033-1040.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2016
Publication Date Jan 1, 2016
Journal Behavioral Ecology
Print ISSN 1045-2249
Electronic ISSN 1465-7279
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 4
Pages 1033-1040
Keywords collective decision making, recruitment, tandem running, Temnothorax albipennis
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Behavioral Ecology following peer review. The version of record Burns, D., Sendova-Franks, A. and Franks, N. (2016) The effect of social information on the collective choices of ant colonies. Behavioral Ecology, 27 (4). pp. 1033-1040 is available online at:


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