Paris, July 2, 2008
Ants have colonized every habitat on land in part because they have a number of strategies for establishing new colonies.
The quality and quantity of winged queens produced by ants of the genus Rhytidoponera vary with environmental conditions, according to scientists from the laboratoire Fonctionnement et évolution des systèmes écologiques (CNRS/Université Pierre et Marie Curie/ENS Paris). They studied Rhytidoponera impressa, a group of carnivorous ants that hunts small insects and is found along the entire east coast of
In addition, the scientists found that if independent foundation of new colonies becomes ineffective, colonies multiply by splitting up the group. In this case, they do not produce more queens: since worker ants in this group can mate, they provide a less costly means of laying eggs than queens.
Mathematical modeling indicated that these changes in the colony’s reproductive strategy were caused by environmental parameters such as the quantity of food and environmental fluctuations. However, the scientists also found that there are more queens in nature than the model predicts (given that they can be “replaced” by worker ants), and this is probably due to the fact that queens add an important element to colonization in that they can disperse aerially.
© Derek Smith (This image can be obtained from the CNRS photo library, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Figure 1 – Minor size difference between a R. confusa queen (top, shown here after her wings were removed) and worker (bottom).
Shift in Colonial Reproductive Strategy Associated with a Tropical-Temperate Gradient in Rhytidoponera Ants, M. Molet, M. Van Baalen, C. Peeters, The American Naturalist, July 2008.
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