Homing Behaviour in Polyergus rufescens Latr. (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)

Ethology (Impact Factor: 1.95). 01/2010; 102(1):99-108. DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.1996.tb01107.x

ABSTRACT Homing mechanisms of the European slave-making ant Polyergus rufescens Latr. are investigated by field experiments. The analysis of the behaviour and paths of both homing scouts and raiders after passive displacement showed that: i. Scouts probably home by using a path integration system based on celestial cues; and ii. Displaced raiders do not seem to adopt such a vectorial orientation mechanism. Moreover, we found that passively displaced scouts exhibit a systematic search strategy for the nest after a rectilinear path. By contrast, raiders perform a similar search pattern just after release. Similarities between Cataglyphis and Polyergus homing behaviour are discussed.

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    ABSTRACT: Summary. A review of field and laboratory research concerning raiding behaviour, mating strategies and colony founding in Formica sanguinea and Polyergus rufescens (respectively facultative and obligatory parasites of the Serviformica species) is presented. The analysis and comparison of these crucial and peculiar moments in the life cycle of dulotic colonies may be a valid tool to clarify the evolutionary origins of slavery in ants.Concerning the reproductive behaviour, F. sanguinea females mate only in nuptial flights. P. rufescens females mate on the ground around their natal nest, or return to a dulotic colony after mating flights and wait for a raid, or mate directly during a raid. Moreover, field observations suggest that F. sanguinea adopts a strategy similar to the "male aggregation syndrome", whereas P. rufescens mating strategy can be considered similar to the "female calling syndrome". In the field, newly-mated queens of both slave-makers participate in raiding swarms: following a slave raid is an advantageous strategy to locate and invade host nests and to establish a new dulotic colony.For colony formation, F. sanguinea presents a great variety of possible strategies (independent foundation and dependent foundation including alliance, adoption, usurpation, and brood sack). This provides evidence of a behavioural plasticity that confirms its nature as a facultative parasite. On the contrary, P. rufescens depends only on usurpation, during which the Dufour's gland contents seem to play a crucial role in the appeasement of the residents of the target colony.Also the raiding behaviour of F. sanguinea is less specialized than that shown by P. rufescens. In fact, in the obligatory slave-maker the important role of scouts in the organization of slave-raids is confirmed, which are rapid and effective. By contrast, raids of F. sanguinea may be regarded as a continuation and expansion of common foraging and predatory activity, as predicted by Darwin's hypothesis for the origin and evolution of slavery in ants. Nevertheless, the intraspecific raids conducted by P. rufescens emphasize also the important role of territorial competition as evolutive cause of dulosis.
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper we report the results of a detailed study on the behavioral ecology of slave raiding and foraging activity in the European blood-red ant, Formica sanguinea Latr. The field study was conducted over an unbroken period of 78 days, during which the activity of two dulotic colonies of this facultative slave-maker was observed for 10 h each day. It was possible to observe 26 raids distributed over 23 days, among which 18 were followed by the sacking of nests belonging to the species F. cunicularia, F. fusca, and Lasius emarginatus, whereas 8 failed. Simple, continuous, and simultaneous raids occurred. We recorded the timing, frequency, distance, and direction of slave raids, including the number of participants and the type of booty. Particular attention was devoted to the scouting behavior and raiding organization. Moreover, every day, we observed foraging and predatory behavior, during which adult insects (mainly ants), seeds, and berries were retrieved to the dulotic colonies. On the basis of our observations F. sanguinea seems to be a very efficient slave-maker and predatory species of the Raptiformica subgenus. Moreover, its dulotic behavior may be regarded as a continuation and an expansion of its foraging and predatory behavior, as predicted by Darwin's hypothesis for the origin and evolution of slavery in ants.
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    ABSTRACT:   Juvenile gryllacridid Orthoptera, known as raspy crickets, build nests or burrows as soon as they hatch. Both juveniles and adults are central place foragers that search for food at night and return to the same nest each morning. This study examines the homing abilities of juveniles of an undescribed species of gryllacridid from Western Australia. Juveniles were placed in a simple maze, which consisted of two chambers, one containing the nest and the other empty, linked by wide glass tubes to a central chamber containing food. The food was placed in this chamber with a consistent orientation relative to the exit tubes leading to the nest and empty chambers. Juveniles appeared to learn which chamber contained their nest and thereafter ignored the route towards the empty chamber. By exchanging the connecting glass tubes, it could be established that juvenile crickets were not using chemical trails to find their home. The positions of the empty and nest chambers with respect to the central chamber were exchanged and, in a separate manipulation, the spatial configuration of the food in the central chamber was also changed. Both manipulations resulted in a decrease in successful returns to the nest chamber, the former because the nest had been relocated, the latter presumably because the spatial arrangement of items within the food chamber now presented orientation cues, which led to the empty chamber. Furthermore, juveniles were able to estimate distance travelled, despite the absence of chemical or visual cues. Juvenile raspy crickets appear to be able to maintain nest fidelity from a very early age by using spatial landmarks and appear capable of measuring translational displacement intrinsically.
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May 21, 2014