Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 373–383 | Cite as

Behavioral ecology of the neotropical termite-hunting ant Pachycondyla (= Termitopone) marginata: colony founding, group-raiding and migratory patterns

  • Inara R. Leal
  • Paulo S. Oliveira


This study provides the first detailed field account of colony founding, group-raiding and migratory habits in the neotropical termite-hunting ant rPachycondyla marginata, in a semi-deciduous forest in south-east Brazil. New colonies can originate by haplometrosis, pleometrosis, or colony fission. Incipient colonies with multiple foundresses persisted longer in the field, and most excavated nests contained more than one dealated female. A total of 202 group raids by P. marginata were registered, and in all cases the raided termite species was Neocapritermes opacus. Nearly 20% of the workers within a colony engage with raiding activity. Colonies of P. marginata hunt for termites approximately every 2–3 weeks, and group-raids may last for more than 24 h. Target termite nests are up to 38 m from the ant colony, and occasionally two nests are simultaneously raided by one ant colony. Raiding ants carry 1 or 2 paralysed prey, and nearly 1600 termites can be captured during a 9-h raid. Migration by P. marginata colonies lasted over 2 days and covered distances of 2-97 m (n = 48). Average residence time at a given location was 150 days. Three basic migratory patterns were noted: colony fission (only part of the colony moves), long-distance migrations, and short-distance migrations. Both raiding and migratory activities appeared to be strongly affected by seasonal factors. The group raiding and migratory patterns of P. marginata are compared with other ant taxa with similar habits. It is concluded that P. marginata presents a rudimentary form of the so-called “army ant behavior”, which is highly developed in the subfamilies Dorylinae and Ecitoninae. The extremely specialized diet of P. marginata and the associated high costs of migration are features likely to prevent it from evolving a full army ant life pattern.

Key words

Colony founding Termite-hunting Group raiding Migration Ponerine ants 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inara R. Leal
    • 1
  • Paulo S. Oliveira
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de ZoologiaUniversidade Estadual de CampinasCampinas SPBrasil

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