, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 69-78

Social organization in the ant Pheidole dentata

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Summary

Caste theory states that the proportions of individuals in different demographic classes of an insect society should vary with environmental factors, and are adaptive because they enhance colony-level efficiency. We examined the proportions of workers in different age and size classes (temporal and physical castes) in whole colonies of the ant Pheidole dentata collected in two different habitats. Despite significant ecological differences between the habitats in competition, resource availability and predation, we found no differences in the physical and temporal caste structures of colonies. Also, there was no correlation between physical or temporal caste ratios and the reproductive output of colonies. Because of topography, distance between sites, and apparent low vagility of Pheidole alates, we assume that gene flow between the sites is inadequate to account for the observed similarities. Although age- and size-related patterns of division of labor were observed, similarities in the behavioral profiles (the sum of the relative contributions of each age cohort to the performance of tasks) in colonies having different age caste structures suggests that worker, flexibility may be more important than rigidly programmed age- and size-correlated patterns of task performance.