, Volume 92, Issue 7, pp 324-327

Influence of interspecific competition on the recruitment behavior and liquid food transport in the tramp ant species Pheidole megacephala

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Abstract

This study was conducted on the reactions of Pheidole megacephala scouts when finding liquid food sources situated on territories marked by competing dominant ant species or on unmarked, control areas to see if the number of recruited nestmates is affected and if soldiers behave in ways adapted to the situation. We show that scouts recruit more nestmates, particularly soldiers, on marked rather than on unmarked areas. This recruitment allows P. megacephala to organize the defence and rapid depletion of these food sources prior to any contact with competitors. Soldiers can carry liquid foods both (1) in their crops like other Myrmicinae and (2), in a new finding concerning myrmicine ants, under their heads and thoraxes like certain poneromorph genera because the droplets adhere through surface tension strengths. Later, the liquids stored in the crop are distributed to nestmates through regurgitations during trophallaxis and the external droplets are distributed through “social buckets”, or the mode of liquid food transfer common in poneromorphs. Their flexibility to use or not use the latter technique, based on the situation, corroborates other reports that Pheidole soldiers have a relatively large behavioral repertoire.