, Volume 167, Issue 1, pp 229–240 | Cite as

Fast food in ant communities: how competing species find resources

  • Jessica M. C. Pearce-Duvet
  • Martin Moyano
  • Frederick R. Adler
  • Donald H. FeenerJr.
Community ecology - Original Paper


An understanding of foraging behavior is crucial to understanding higher level community dynamics; in particular, there is a lack of information about how different species discover food resources. We examined the effect of forager number and forager discovery capacity on food discovery in two disparate temperate ant communities, located in Texas and Arizona. We defined forager discovery capacity as the per capita rate of resource discovery, or how quickly individual ants arrived at resources. In general, resources were discovered more quickly when more foragers were present; this was true both within communities, where species identity was ignored, as well as within species. This pattern suggests that resource discovery is a matter of random processes, with ants essentially bumping into resources at a rate mediated by their abundance. In contrast, species that were better discoverers, as defined by the proportion of resources discovered first, did not have higher numbers of mean foragers. Instead, both mean forager number and mean forager discovery capacity determined discovery success. The Texas species used both forager number and capacity, whereas the Arizona species used only forager capacity. There was a negative correlation between a species’ prevalence in the environment and the discovery capacity of its foragers, suggesting that a given species cannot exploit both high numbers and high discovery capacity as a strategy. These results highlight that while forager number is crucial to determining time to discovery at the community level and within species, individual forager characteristics influence the outcome of exploitative competition in ant communities.


Community ecology Forager density Forager discovery capacity Formicidae Resource discovery 



P. Wiescher assisted in the collection and discussion of these data. Gracious thanks to L. Gilbert, P. Schappert, and the University of Texas for access to our Texas sites. Work on our Arizona sites was kindly allowed by the Forest Service, the American Museum of Natural History Southwestern Research Station, and J. and V. Austen, owners of El Coronado Ranch. This work was supported by National Science Foundation grant DEB-0316524 to D.H. Feener, Jr. and F.R. Adler, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and International Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to J.M.C. Pearce-Duvet. Our thanks also go to the anonymous reviewers that helped rebuild and refine this publication.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica M. C. Pearce-Duvet
    • 1
    • 2
  • Martin Moyano
    • 1
  • Frederick R. Adler
    • 1
  • Donald H. FeenerJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSICSevillaSpain

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