Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 447–456 | Cite as

How experienced individuals contribute to an improvement in collective performance in ants

  • Elizabeth A. Langridge
  • Ana B. Sendova-Franks
  • Nigel R. FranksEmail author
Original Paper


Certain groups of organisms are capable of improving their collective performance with experience. In a recent study, we demonstrated that, over successive emigrations, colonies of the ant Temnothorax albipennis are able to improve their collective performance by reducing the time taken to complete an emigration (Langridge et al., Behav Ecol Sociobiol 56:523–529, 2004). In this paper, by recording the performance of individually marked workers during repeated emigrations, we were able to analyse some of the ways in which time gains are achieved. We found that: (1) those transporters that also transported in the preceding emigration began to transport earlier in the current emigration and, in the majority of emigrations, transported more items than those transporters that had not transported in the preceding emigration; (2) the time that elapsed before the first item was transported into the new nest reduced over successive emigrations, and this first item was, in the majority of emigrations, carried by a transporter that had also transported in the preceding emigration; (3) the number of adults that were transported reduced over successive emigrations. Our results strongly suggest that the behaviour of transporters that also transported in a preceding emigration may be modified as a result of their experience and that, consequently, their efforts in the next emigration make a major contribution to the improved performance of the colony as a whole.


Ant Collective performance Experience Probability of response Temnothorax albipennis 



We wish to thank Antony Aleksiev, Stefanie Berghoff, François-Xavier Dechaume-Moncharmont and Roderich Groβ for constructive comments on this manuscript. The experiment reported in this study complied with the current laws of the UK.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth A. Langridge
    • 1
  • Ana B. Sendova-Franks
    • 2
  • Nigel R. Franks
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Centre for Behavioural Biology and School of Biological SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.School of Mathematical Sciences, CEMSUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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