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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Michael Duncan for logistical support.

Funding

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

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Correspondence to E. J. T. Middleton.

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Middleton, E.J.T., Reid, C.R., Mann, R.P. et al. Social and private information influence the decision making of Australian meat ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus). Insect. Soc. 65, 649–656 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00040-018-0656-1

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Keywords

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