Humidity preference for fungus culturing by workers of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa
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The hygropreference of gardening workers of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa was investigated in the laboratory using a gradient of relative humidity. Gardening workers were placed, together with pieces of fungus garden, in small, interconnected nest chambers offering four different relative humidities: 33 %, 75 %, 84 % and 98 % RH. Workers were allowed to move freely between them and to relocate the fungus following their humidity preference. While workers distributed themselves randomly in the nest chambers, they located the fungus gardens in the chamber with the highest humidity. These results indicate that gardening workers are able to sense differences in relative humidity, and that this ability is shown when they are engaged in fungus culturing. Humidity is discussed as one of the relevant variables that probably underlay the evolution of regulatory responses for the control of fungus growth in leaf-cutting ants.
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