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Nest-plugging: interference competition in desert ants (Novomessor cockerelli and Pogonomyrmex barbatus)

Summary

Pogonomyrmex barbatus and Novomessor cockerelli, sympatric species of harvester ants in the Lower Sonoran desert, compete for seed resources. This study reports on a method of interference competition. Early in the morning, before P. barbatus' activity period, N. cockerelli fills the nest entrances of P. barbatus with sand. This delays the beginning of the P. barbatus activity period for 1–3 h. P. barbatus colonies near N. cockerelli nests were more likely to be plugged. Nest-plugging shifts the typical daily sequence of P. barbatus activities, including the onset of foraging, forward towards midday, when high temperatures force the colony back inside the nest. P. barbatus colonies do not compensate for late emergence or events impeding foraging by increasing foraging rate. Thus nest-plugging by N. cockerelli decreases the foraging capacity of P. barbatus colonies.

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Correspondence to Deborah M. Gordon.

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Gordon, D.M. Nest-plugging: interference competition in desert ants (Novomessor cockerelli and Pogonomyrmex barbatus). Oecologia 75, 114–118 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00378823

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Key words

  • Harvester ants
  • Interference competition
  • Lower Sonoran Desert
  • Pogonomyrmex
  • Novomessor