Physical and biological determinants of collective behavioural dynamics in complex systems: pulling chain formation in the nest-weaving ant Oecophylla smaragdina

Bochynek, Thomas, and Robson, Simon K.A. (2014) Physical and biological determinants of collective behavioural dynamics in complex systems: pulling chain formation in the nest-weaving ant Oecophylla smaragdina. PLoS ONE, 9 (4). e95112. pp. 1-7.

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Abstract

The evolution of nest weaving, the inclusion of larval silk in the nest walls, is considered one of the pinnacles of cooperative behaviour in social insects. Within the four ant genera in which this has evolved, Oecophylla are unique in being the only group that precedes the deposition of larval silk by actively manipulating the leaf substrate to form a nest chamber. Here we provide the first descriptions of the manipulation process within a complex-systems framework. Substrate manipulation involves individual ants selecting, grasping and attempting to pull the edge of the substrate. These individuals are then joined by nest mates at the work site, who either select a site beside the first individual or grasp the body of the first or preceding worker to form a chain of pulling ants that together drag and bend the substrate. Site selection by individual workers is not random when confronted with an artificial leaf, with individuals more likely to grasp a substrate at its tip rather than along a more broad edge. The activity of additional individuals is also not random, with their activity being grouped in both space and time. Additional individuals are more likely to join an existing biting individual or pulling group. The positive feedback associated with the early stages of pulling behaviour appears typical for many of the collective actions observed in social insects.

Item ID: 32841
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Keywords: complex systems, Formicidae, nest weaving
Additional Information:

© 2014 Bochynek and Robson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Discovery Grant DP1093553
Date Deposited: 16 May 2014 06:18
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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