Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 649–656 | Cite as

Social and private information influence the decision making of Australian meat ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus)

  • E. J. T. MiddletonEmail author
  • C. R. Reid
  • R. P. Mann
  • T. Latty
Research Article


For social animals, decision-making is influenced by both social information provided by the group, and private information based on the individual’s personal experience. Social insects make excellent study systems for understanding how social and private information is used by individuals to influence their navigational route choice, and thereby influence the collective decision-making strategy of the group. Using colonies of the Australian meat ant, Iridomyrmex purpureus, we demonstrate that when individual workers are trained to a rewarding arm in a Y maze, the trained ants use private information (memory) in route choice when social information (trail pheromone) is experimentally removed and have no preference when private information and social information are in direct conflict with each other. Additional experience did not provide a strong training effect, such that ants returning after their first training trip tended to choose the path they had been trained on (private information) and subsequent trips did not have a significant additional effect on this initial preference.


Collective decision-making Trail pheromone Route memory Private information Public information Synergy 



We would like to thank Michael Duncan for logistical support.


This research was funded by a Branco Weiss Society Science grant and an Australian Research Council discovery grant (to TL).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

40_2018_656_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary Table 1. Results of the absolute and relative coding regression analysis for Experiment 1; bold indicates significant values (p < 0.05) (DOCX 19 KB)
40_2018_656_MOESM2_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary Table 2. Results of mixed effects logistic regression model for Experiment 2; bold indicates significant values (p < 0.05) (DOCX 14 KB)


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. J. T. Middleton
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. R. Reid
    • 2
  • R. P. Mann
    • 3
  • T. Latty
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and EnvironmentThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Statistics, School of MathematicsUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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