Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 293–298 | Cite as

Elevational and geographic variation in army ant swarm raid rates

  • S. O’DonnellEmail author
  • M. Kaspari
  • A. Kumar
  • J. Lattke
  • S. Powell
RESEARCH ARTICLE (C.W. Rettenmeyer memorial paper)


Geographic and elevational variation in the local abundance of swarm-raiding army ants has implications for the population dynamics of their prey, as well as affecting the profitability of army-ant-following behavior for birds. Here, we analyze systematically collected data on E. burchellii and L. praedator raid rates from geographically and elevationally wide-ranging sites, from lowland to montane forests. We show that raids of each species, and of both species pooled, reach peak densities at intermediate (premontane) elevations. These patterns suggest that army ant swarm raids are relatively abundant in Neotropical montane forests. Therefore, a paucity of ant raids does not explain the absence of obligate ant-following bird species, particularly true antbirds (Thamnophilidae), from montane forests. As army ant raids are relatively common at middle elevations, opportunities exist for other montane bird taxa to exploit army ant raids as a food source.


Antbirds Eciton burchellii Ecitoninae Labidus praedator 



We conducted our field research under government research permits from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela, and in accordance with the laws of the respective countries. This project was supported by a University of Washington ALCOR Fellowship and an Organization for Tropical Studies Post-Course Award to A.K., University of Washington Royalty Research Fund and NSF grants (IBN-0347315 and IOS-0923680) to S.O’D., and a National Geographic Society Grant in Aid of Research to M.K.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. O’Donnell
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Kaspari
    • 2
  • A. Kumar
    • 3
  • J. Lattke
    • 4
  • S. Powell
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Animal Behavior Program, Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.EEB Graduate Program, Department of ZoologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  3. 3.Council for International Educational Exchange, Tropical Ecology and Conservation ProgramMonteverdeCosta Rica
  4. 4.Museo del Instituto de Zoología Agrícola, Universidad Central VenezuelaMaracayVenezuela
  5. 5.School of Biological Sciences, University of BristolBristolUK
  6. 6.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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