Encyclopedia of Social Insects

Living Edition
| Editors: Christopher K. Starr

Supercolonies of Ants

  • Heikki HelanteräEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_121-1

What Are Supercolonies?

A stereotypical ant colony consists of a single queen and her offspring. In such a nuclear family, the kinship among nest members is high. This guarantees inclusive fitness benefits to the non-reproducing workers and the social life form of ants also originally evolved in such a setting. The colony occupies a single nest site and typically excludes outsiders through aggression.

Ant family structures have, however, diverged from the ancestral state also to more complex colonies. Ant supercolonies are an extreme example of this divergence. They are the largest coalitions of multicellular individuals on Earth behaving cooperatively, sometimes comprising hundreds of millions of individuals. For example, a supercolony of Formica yessensis in Hokkaido, Japan, was estimated to comprise 45,000 nests, with 3,000,000,000 workers [4]. Even larger, the European main supercolony of the Argentine antLinepithema humileis spread discontinuously over 6000 km of coastline from...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecology and Genetics Research UnitUniversity of OuluOuluFinland