Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 99–110 | Cite as

Cooperative transport in ants: a review of proximate mechanisms

Review Article

Abstract

The behavioral mechanisms that lead to cooperation in social insects are often unknown or poorly understood. Cooperative transport, or the movement of an object by two or more individuals, is a particularly impressive example of collaboration among workers. Many ant species perform this behavior, but there is extreme interspecific variation in efficiency. Why are some ant species so efficient at cooperative transport, while others are so inefficient? Surprisingly, the scientific community has little proximate understanding of the adaptations that make certain species excel at this behavior. This work provides a review of the behavioral rules that separate the efficient cooperative transporters from the inefficient. We present two measures of efficiency of cooperative transport as well as a flowchart of the cooperative transport process. By identifying the steps and flow of information, the flowchart enables careful modeling of cooperative transport from a mechanistic perspective. Previous studies of each of the four phases of cooperative transport are discussed, including decision, recruitment, organization, and transport. We also present hypotheses regarding behavioral mechanisms that may modulate efficiency.

Keywords

Cooperative transport Group retrieval Formicidae Cooperative foraging Behavioral rules Recruitment Persistence 

References

  1. Åkesson S. and Wehner R. 2002. Visual navigation in desert ants Cataglyphis fortis: are snapshots coupled to a celestial system of reference? J. Exp. Biol. 205: 1971–1978.Google Scholar
  2. Amor F., Ortega P., Cerdá X. and Boulay R. 2009. Cooperative prey-retrieving in the ant Cataglyphis floricola: an unusual short-distance recruitment. Insect. Soc. 57: 91–94.Google Scholar
  3. Berman S., Lindsey Q., Sakar M.S., Kumar V. and Pratt S.C. 2011. Experimental study and modeling of group retrieval in ants as an approach to collective transport in swarm robotic systems. Proc. IEEE 99: 1470–1481.Google Scholar
  4. Breed M., Fewell J., Moore A. and Williams K. 1987. Graded recruitment in a ponerine ant. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 20: 407–411.Google Scholar
  5. Cerdá X., Angulo E., Boulay R. and Lenoir A. 2009. Individual and collective foraging decisions: a field study of worker recruitment in the gypsy ant Aphaenogaster senilis. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 63: 551–562.Google Scholar
  6. Cogni R. and Oliveira P. 2004. Recruitment behavior during foraging in the neotropical ant Gnamptogenys moelleri (Formicidae: Ponerinae): does the type of food matter? J. Insect Behav. 17: 443–458.Google Scholar
  7. Couzin I.D., Krause J., James R., Ruxton G.D. and Franks N.R. 2002. Collective memory and spatial sorting in animal groups. J. Theor. Biol. 218: 1–11.Google Scholar
  8. Czaczkes T.J. and Ratnieks F.L.W. 2011. Simple rules result in the adaptive turning of food items to reduce drag during cooperative food transport in the ant Pheidole oxyops. Insect. Soc. 58: 91–96.Google Scholar
  9. Czaczkes T.J. and Ratnieks F.L.W. 2012. Pheromone trails in the Brazilian ant Pheidole oxyops: extreme properties and dual recruitment action. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 66: 1149–1156.Google Scholar
  10. Czaczkes T.J. and Ratnieks F.L.W. 2013. Cooperative transport in ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and elsewhere. Myrmecol. News 18: 1–11.Google Scholar
  11. Czaczkes T.J., Nouvellet P. and Ratnieks F.L.W. 2011. Cooperative food transport in the Neotropical ant, Pheidole oxyops. Insect. Soc. 58: 153–161.Google Scholar
  12. Czaczkes T.J., Vollet-Neto A. and Ratnieks F.L.W. 2013. Prey escorting behavior and possible convergent evolution of foraging recruitment mechanism in an invasive ant. Behav. Ecol. 24: 1177–1184.Google Scholar
  13. Daly-Schveitzer S., Beugnon G. and Lachaud J.-P. 2007. Prey weight and overwhelming difficulty impact the choice of retrieval strategy in the Neotropical ant Gnamptogenys sulcata (F. Smith). Insect. Soc. 54: 319–328.Google Scholar
  14. Detrain C. and Deneubourg J.-L. 1997. Scavenging by Pheidole pallidula: a key for understanding decision-making systems in ants. Anim. Behav. 53: 537–547.Google Scholar
  15. Franks N. 1986. Teams in social insects: group retrieval of prey by army ants (Eciton burchellii, Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 18: 425–429.Google Scholar
  16. Franks N., Sendova-Franks A., Simmons J. and Mogie M. 1999. Convergent evolution, superefficient teams and tempo in Old and New World army ants. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 266: 1697–1701.Google Scholar
  17. Franks N., Sendova-Franks A. and Anderson C. 2001. Division of labour within teams of New World and Old World army ants. Anim. Behav. 62: 635–642.Google Scholar
  18. Hölldobler B. and Wilson E.O. 1990. The Ants. Belknap Press, Cambridge Massachusetts. 732 pp.Google Scholar
  19. Hölldobler B., Stanton R.C. and Markl H. 1978. Recruitment and food-retrieving behavior in Novomessor (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 4: 163–181.Google Scholar
  20. Miyata H., Hirata M., Azuma N., Murakami T. and Higashi S. 2009. Army ant behaviour in the poneromorph hunting ant Onychomyrmex hedleyi Emery (Hymenoptera: Formicidae; Amblyoponinae). Aust. J. Entomol. 48: 47–52.Google Scholar
  21. Moffett M. 1988. Cooperative food transport by an asiatic ant. Natl. Geogr. Res. 4: 386–394.Google Scholar
  22. Moffett M. 1992. Ant foraging. Res. Explor. 8: 220–231.Google Scholar
  23. Moffett M.W. 1986. Behavior of the group-predatory ant Proatta butteli (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): an old world relative of the attine ants. Insect. Soc. 33: 444–457.Google Scholar
  24. Moffett M.W. 2010. Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions. University of California Press. 288 pp.Google Scholar
  25. Pielstroem S. and Roces F. 2012. Vibrational communication in the spatial organization of collective digging in the leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri. Anim. Behav. 84: 743–752.Google Scholar
  26. Pratt S.C. 2005. Quorum sensing by encounter rates in the ant Temnothorax albipennis. Behav. Ecol. 16: 488–496.Google Scholar
  27. Pratt S.C., Mallon E.B. Sumpter, D.J.T. and Franks N.R. 2002. Quorum sensing, recruitment, and collective decision-making during colony emigration by the ant Leptothorax albipennis. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 52: 117–127.Google Scholar
  28. Razin N., Eckmann J.P. and Feinerman O. 2013. Desert ants achieve reliable recruitment across noisy interactions. J. R. Soc. Interface. 10: 20130079.Google Scholar
  29. Robson S. and Traniello J. 1998. Resource assessment, recruitment behavior, and organization of cooperative prey retrieval in the ant Formica schaufussi (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J. Insect Behav. 11: 1–22.Google Scholar
  30. Robson S. and Traniello J. 2002. Transient division of labor and behavioral specialization in the ant Formica schaufussi. Naturwissenschaften 89: 128–131.Google Scholar
  31. Seeley T.D. and Visscher P.K. 2003. Choosing a home: how the scouts in a honey bee swarm perceive the completion of their group decision making. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 54: 511–520.Google Scholar
  32. Seeley T.D. and Visscher P.K. 2004. Quorum sensing during nest-site selection by honeybee swarms. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 56: 594–601.Google Scholar
  33. Steck K. 2012. Just follow your nose: homing by olfactory cues in ants. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 22: 231–235.Google Scholar
  34. Sudd J.H. 1960. The transport of prey by an ant, Pheidole crassinoda EM. Behaviour 16: 295–308.Google Scholar
  35. Sumpter D.J.T. 2010. Collective Animal Behavior. Princeton University Press. 302 pp.Google Scholar
  36. Trager J.C., MacGown J.A. and Trager M.D. 2007. Revision of the Nearctic endemic Formica pallidefulva group. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 80: 610–636.Google Scholar
  37. Traniello J. and Beshers S. 1991. Maximization of foraging efficiency and resource defense by group retrieval in the ant Formica schaufussi. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 29: 283–289.Google Scholar
  38. Wittlinger M., Wehner R. and Wolf H. 2006. The ant odometer: stepping on stilts and stumps. Science 312: 1965–1967.Google Scholar
  39. Wojtusiak J., Godzinska E. and Dejean A. 1995. Capture and retrieval of very large prey by workers of the African weaver ant, Oecophylla longinoda (Latreille 1802). Trop. Zool. 8: 309–318.Google Scholar
  40. Yamamoto A., Ishihara S. and Ito F. 2008. Fragmentation or transportation: mode of large-prey retrieval in arboreal and ground nesting ants. J. Insect Behav. 22: 1–11.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations