, Volume 92, Issue 4, pp 542-547

Distance effects on resource profitability and recruitment in the giant tropical ant, Paraponera clavata

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We examine how cost and benefit components of resource profitability affect recruitment in the giant tropical ant, Paraponera clavata. To vary resource profitability, we changed the quantity of artificial nectar baits presented to foragers and the distance of nectar baits from the nest. Both distance to and amount of resource affected quantitative aspects of recruitment. At increased distances foragers were less likely to recruit, and fewer workers were recruited to the resource area. The amount of nectar affected the tendency of foragers to recruit, but had no effect on the number of ants recruited. Variation in resource distance was also associated with qualitative changes in recruitment strategy. Foragers at distant sites recruited from the canopy rather than from the nest, and often transferred nectar to other workers for transport to the nest. Nectar transfer and extra-nidal recruitment significantly reduced the time required for resource collection. It may also have increased the ability of workers to specialize in specific foraging tasks. A portion of the colony's foraging force specialized spatially by remaining in distant foraging areas without returning to the nest. The flexible recruitment system of P. clavata increases colonial net energetic gain rates by concentrating foraging effort on resources yielding the highest net energetic rewards, and increases the competitive abilities of individual colonies at resource sites by decreasing collection times.