, Volume 139, Issue 2, pp 255–266 | Cite as

Liquid-feeding performances of ants (Formicidae): ecological and evolutionary implications

  • Diane W. Davidson
  • Steven C. Cook
  • Roy R. Snelling
Plant Animal Interactions


Disparities in liquid-feeding performances of major ant taxa have likely been important to resource partitioning among ants, to the nature and composition of ant partnerships with plants and sap-feeding trophobionts, and to ecological and evolutionary diversification of ant taxa. We measured performance volumetrically for individual workers of 77 ant species from lowland rain forests of Amazonia and Borneo and three key North American taxa. In trials with 9% sucrose solution, performances were strongly related to body size (and alitrunk length) and to proventricular structure at generic to subfamilial levels. Highly modified proventriculi were associated with disproportionately large load sizes in Formicinae and certain small-bodied Dolichoderinae. These same taxa also ingested liquids more rapidly during foraging than did similar-sized species with plesiomorphic proventriculi. Secondarily reduced foraging performances of several formicines likely reflect ecological or evolutionary trade-offs related to dietary specialization or anti-predator defenses. Across formicines and dolichoderines, performances differed by functional group. Relatively small loads and slow uptake characterized species tending trophobionts (mainly Hemiptera) day and night in large worker aggregations. Large loads and rapid uptake typified solitary, diurnal “leaf-foragers.” Intermediate feeding performances characterized a few species that both tended trophobionts in small aggregates and frequently foraged alone.


Activity rhythms Load sizes Proventriculus Trophobiont-tending Uptake rates 



Studies were supported by the U. S. National Science Foundation (no. IBN-9707932 to D.W.D.). We thank Peru
tm)s Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (INRENA), and officials of the Parque Nacional Manu, Universidad Nacional Agraria de La Molina, the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, and the Brunei Museums, for granting or facilitating permissions to study and collect inside national parks. Specimens are vouchered in the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and either (Peru) the Museo de Entomología of the Universidad National Agraria La Molina (or Museo de Historia Natural) or (Brunei) the Brunei Museums. For determinations of ant taxa, we thank E.O. Wilson (Pheidole), R.J. Kohout (Polyrhachis), and J.T. Longino (Crematogaster). D. Bramble and the reviewers commented helpfully on prior drafts, and E. King trained S. Cook in microscopy. M. Kilvington and T.H. Chua generously provide hospitality in Brunei. In 1974, W.L. Brown Jr, now deceased, first hinted to D.W.D. of a relationship between the sepalous proventriculus and the ecological and evolutionary success of formicines.

Supplementary material

Appendices I • III

app.pdf (132 kb)
(PDF 494 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane W. Davidson
    • 1
  • Steven C. Cook
    • 2
  • Roy R. Snelling
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Entomology SectionNatural History Museum of Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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