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Caste polyethism and collective defense in the ant, Pbeidole pallidula: the outcome of quantitative differences in recruitment

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During agonistic encounters, both minors and majors of the European ant P. pallidula actively cooperate in defense. Minors seize the legs of the intruder and in some cases induce the recruitment of nestmates whereas majors kill the spreadeagled alien ant. The defensive strategy of P. pallidula is very flexible and adapted to both the number of alient ants and to the intruder's superiority in fighting. On the one hand, only a massive invasion of alien minors results in a slow mobilization of resident ants to the combat area, elicited by recruiters performing weak tactile invitations and trail-laying behavior. On the other hand, the presence of 10 majors induces a fast and massive recruitment achieved by intense trail-laying and tactile invitations from the recruiters. Because of their high response threshold to invitations, resident majors are mobilized only during these intense recruitments, their exit being additionally enhanced by their preferential stimulation. The adaptiveness of this defensive strategy is discussed. It is also suggested that simple decision-making rules of recruitment and caste differences in behavioral thresholds could account for the complexity of P. pallidula defensive strategies.

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Senior Research Assistant at Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research

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Detrain, C., Pasteels, J.M. Caste polyethism and collective defense in the ant, Pbeidole pallidula: the outcome of quantitative differences in recruitment. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 29, 405–412 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00170170

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  • Response Threshold
  • Defensive Strategy
  • Agonistic Encounter
  • Behavioral Threshold
  • Slow Mobilization