Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 131–145 | Cite as

Foraging activity of two species of leaf-cutting ants (Atta) in a primary forest of the Central Amazon

  • H. L. De Vasconcelos
Article

Summary

The foraging activity of the leaf-cutting antsAtta sexdens andA. cephalotes was studied observing two colonies of each species in a primary forest of the Central Amazon. These two ant species utilize chemically and visually marked trunk trails, and it was show that foraging is centered on these trails. The number of new foraging sites was inversely reated to the distance from existing trails. As a consequence, the area effectively exploited by the studied colonies was only 15 to 23% of their respective foraging ranges.

Both species attacked large trees (stem diameter >20 cm) in a proportion higher to the available one and this preference seems to be related with quality of the harvested material and with the “area restricted search” strategy employed by these ants. Although these ants were able to exploit a wide range of plant species, harvest activity was concentrated on only a few. New leaves was the main item foraged byA. cephalotes whereasA. sexdens did not show a pattern of plant part preference.A. sexdens also presented a higher temporal variation in foraging rates, and this variation was partiallly related to the type of plant part harvested. It is suggested that the more generalistic behaviour presented byA. sexdens is one of the factors that contributes to its diverse habitat distribution as compared toA. cephalotes.

Keywords

Plant Part Aire Large Tree Generalistic Behaviour Stem Diameter 

Activité alimentaire de deux espèces de fourmis champignonnistes(Atta) dans une forêt primaire d'Amazonie Centrale

Resume

L'activité alimentaire des fourmis champignonnistesAtta sexdens etA. cephalotes a été étudiée par l'observation de deux colonies de chaque espèce dans une forêt dense humide primaire d'Amazonie Centrale. Ces deux espèces utilisent des pistes marquées visuellement et chimiquement. Il a été démontré que l'activité alimentaire est orientée sur ces pistes: le nombre de nouveaux sites d'alimentation est inversement lié à la distance à une piste déjà existante. En conséquence, 15 à 23 % seulement du rayon du territoire d'alimentation des colonies est effectivement utilisé.

Les deux espèces attaquent de manière préférentielle de grands arbres (diamètre du tronc à hauteur d'homme >20 cm). Cette préférence semble liée à la qualité du matériel végétal récolté et à la stratégie de recherche sur une aire restreinte employée par ces fourmis. Bien que ces fourmis aient exploité un grand nombre d'espèces végétales, l'activité alimentaire est concentrée sur un petit nombre de celles-ci. Les jeunes feuilles sont le principal élément exploité parA. cephalotes cependant queA. sexdens ne montre aucune préférence par rapport au type de matériel végétal récolté. Cette dernière espèce présente également une plus grande variation temporelle des taux d'alimentation qui est liée, en partie, au type de matériel récolté. Il est suggéré que le comportement non spécialisé présenté parA. sexdens est un des facteurs qui contribuent au fait qu'elle occupe un plus grand nombre d'habitats queA. cephalotes.

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Copyright information

© Masson 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. L. De Vasconcelos
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de EcologiaInstituto Nacional de Pesquisas da AmazôniaManausBrasil

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