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Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 99–110 | Cite as

Self-assemblages in insect societies

  • C. Anderson
  • G. Theraulaz
  • J.-L. Deneubourg

Summary:

In insect societies, a number of very striking collective structures are formed by individuals linking themselves to one another. One such example is an army ant bivouac. These structures are termed self-assemblages and are part of a more general and important aspect of insect societies - intermediate-level parts - in which functional group-level adaptive structures are formed. These parts are, in a sense, the tissues and organs of complex insect societies. Here we review the natural history of self-assemblages in insect societies. We find that at least 18 different types of structure exist: bivouacs, bridges, curtains, droplets, escape droplets, festoons, fills, flanges, ladders, ovens, plugs, pulling chains, queen clusters, rafts, swarms, thermoregulatory clusters, tunnels, and walls. These self-assemblages are found in a variety of species of ants, bees, and wasps, but (as far as we are aware) not in termites. The function of these self-assemblages can be grouped under five broad categories which are not mutually exclusive: 1) defence, 2) pulling structures, 3) thermoregulation, 4) colony survival under inclement conditions, and 5) ease of passage when crossing an obstacle. The paucity of our knowledge concerning the factors that favour self-assemblage formation and the likely proximate mechanisms are highlighted.

Key words: Self-assemblages, chains, bivouacs, swarms, aggregation. 

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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Anderson
    • 1
  • G. Theraulaz
    • 2
  • J.-L. Deneubourg
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0205, USAUS
  2. 2.Laboratoire d'éthologie et cognition animale, CNRS, ERS 2382, Université Paul Sabatier, 118 route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse Cédex 4, France, e-mail: theraula@cict.frFR
  3. 3.Center for Non-Linear Phenomena and Complex Systems, CP 231, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Boulevard du Triomphe, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium, e-mail: jldeneub@pop.vub.ac.beBE

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