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Measuring the trophic ecology of ants using stable isotopes

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Ants are prominent components of most terrestrial arthropod food webs, yet due to their highly variable diet, the role ants play in arthropod communities can be difficult to resolve. Stable isotope analysis is a promising method for determining the dietary history of an organism, and has the potential to advance our understanding of the food web ecology of social insects. However, some unique characteristics of eusocial organisms can complicate the application of this technique to the study of their trophic ecology. Using stable isotopes of N and C, we investigated levels of intraspecific variation both within and among colonies. We also examined the effect of a common preservation technique on δ15N and δ13C values. We discuss the implications of our results on experimental design and sampling methods for studies using stable isotopes to investigate the trophic ecology of social insects.

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Correspondence to C. V. Tillberg.

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Received 4 February 2005; revised 23 June 2005; accepted 4 July 2005.

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Tillberg, C.V., McCarthy, D.P., Dolezal, A.G. et al. Measuring the trophic ecology of ants using stable isotopes. Insect. Soc. 53, 65–69 (2006).

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