Red vs Black: Social Behavior Between Ant Colonies

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B We’ve all had that one roommate that eats all of our food, or somehow your clothes ‘go missing’ in someone elses room, or a neighbor steals your vegetables. This changes how we feel about those close to us. The nasty neighbor effect – those close can take advantage or compete for the same resources, so the response is to be more aggressive to those nearby. But how does one study these behaviors? So busy looking out and up, look down at the world beneath our feet

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B Suburban area -> neighborhood watch -> keeping an eye out for strangers – theyre suspicious. It takes resources to keep them at bay. Like building a wall or something . . . If we had to do that with everyone, we would waste all of our resources on our neighbors, and we’d never get anything done. This is called the dear-enemy effect, it can be seen in animals when they are less aggressive towards their neighbors. birds guarding their nests, salamanders defending their foraging areas, mammals protecting their home range. But sometimes those who live close aren’t so nice . . .

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B Inspiration – walking around sagehen, abundance and diversity of ants. Limited resources – shared space -> do these effects come into play, is there conflict? Do dear-enemy or nasty-neighbor behaviors play a role across species

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B

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B

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H Introduce species -found at sagehen -use logs -similar morphologies

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H For each match we required a minimum of 3 ants per colony for replication

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M Our design

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B

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M Size did not account for these results

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H

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Only dear no enemy? Predation?

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H . But there are some really cool implications. The biggest effect on aggression was species combination. Black ants seemed to be more gentle, while red ants were more aggressive. Red ants were more aggressive to their own species than to others. Competition is higher within species even though niches are similar? Seasonal variance?

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B Ants numbers estimated to be in the quadrillions, ecological roles and ecosystem engineers – cleaners, decomposers, facilitate, aerate soil, allow water to roots, seed dispersal, predators and prey for many birds and omnivores. Ants are much easier to manage than larger animals, while having complex social structures. Studying their behavior gives us insight to how other species behave. It is easy to overlook that food webs start from the bottom up, and that bottom is the foundation. Understanding the relationships ants have with each other and their environment is important for implementing strategies to maintain that structure

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Red vs Black: Social Behavior between Ant Colonies Hefan Zhang, Brendan Kyle, Maya Pastreich

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Introduction Nasty-neighbor effect Individuals will be more aggressive towards those nearby

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Introduction Dear-enemy effect Individuals are less aggressive towards others that live nearby

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Introduction Sagehen – inspirational So many ants! Resources are not unlimited; interspecies interactions occur

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Question Does colony proximity affect ant interaction behavior? Are these behaviors affected by interspecific interactions?

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Hypothesis Social behavior between ants will differ based on colony proximity. Interspecies interactions will be more aggressive than intraspecies interactions

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Methods: Subjects Western Carpenter Ant (Camponotus modoc) Nests in dead wood Predators Decomposers Thatcher Ant (Formica obscuripes) Reside in mounds Predators Decomposers

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Methods: Ant Collection Pootin’ ants Collected from logs GPS used to mark location and distance from each other Storage Dirt filled vials 40°C

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Methods: Matches Placed ant match in petri dish Illuminated red-filtered light 5-minute observation periods Behavior at 30-second intervals Size difference

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Methods: Quantifying Behavior 1 point: aggressive Biting Formic acid 0.5 point: sporadically aggressive Open mandible antennation Hit and runs 0 points: neutral No interaction (-)0.5 point: prosocial Closed mandible antennation Prolonged proximity

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Results: Species Combination on Social Behavior P<0.0001*

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Results: Distance on Social Behavior P=0.28 P=0.28

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Results: Species Combo and Distance on Social Behavior P<0.0001*

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Results: Interaction Effect of Species Combo and Distance on Social Behavior

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Discussion Dear-enemy effect – rejected! Interspecies aggression – rejected! Nasty-neighbor effect observed in red ants

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Discussion Species combination had biggest effect Black ants cuddly Red ants aggressive Red ants were more aggressive with each other

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Implications of Findings Social behavior among social species Competitive interactions Implications for environment management

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Thank you!

Summary: Spring, 2018

Tags: student projects

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