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Wind-induced ventilation of the giant nests of the leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri


To understand the significance of elaborate nest architecture for the control of nest climate, we investigated the mechanisms governing nest ventilation in a large field nest of Atta vollenweideri. Surface wind, drawing air from the central tunnels of the nest mound, was observed to be the main driving force for nest ventilation during summer. This mechanism of wind-induced ventilation has so far not been described for social insect colonies. Thermal convection, another possible force driving ventilation, contributed very little. According to their predominant airflow direction, two functionally distinct tunnel groups were identified: outflow tunnels in the upper, central region, and inflow tunnels in the lower, peripheral region of the nest mound. The function of the tunnels was independent of wind direction. Outflow of air through the central tunnels was followed by a delayed inflow through the peripheral tunnels. Leaf-cutting ants design the tunnel openings on the top of the nest with turrets which may reinforce wind-induced nest ventilation.

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Accepted in revised form: 25 April 2001

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Kleineidam, C., Ernst, R. & Roces, F. Wind-induced ventilation of the giant nests of the leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri. Naturwissenschaften 88, 301–305 (2001).

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  • Surface Wind
  • Social Insect
  • Peripheral Region
  • Thermal Convection
  • Main Drive Force