, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 45-51

Directional fidelity as a foraging constraint in the western harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis

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Understanding the foraging behavior of an animal is critically dependent upon knowledge of the constraints on that animal. In this study, I tested whether fidelity to foraging direction acts as a behavioral constraint to foraging western harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Individual P. occidentalis foragers showed strong fidelity to foraging route and direction. Directional fidelity in this population was not related to trunk trail use, food specialization, colony activity levels, or mortality risks. Directional fidelity constrained individual foraging decisions; when colonies were offered seeds of different quality in 2 directions, individuals did not switch directions to obtain the energetically more rewarding seeds. Colony-level recruitment was increased for energetically more profitable seeds, indicating that colonial responses may compensate for the constraints of directional fidelity on individual foragers.