Animals constantly process information from their environment. In social organisms, information exchange among individuals allows for behaviors to be finely tuned to local environmental cues. Such is the case of foraging in ants, where sharing information about the distribution of resources can drive adaptive behaviors to exploit those resources. In a first study, we quantified how clustering of experimental seed baits significantly increased foraging rates of seed harvester ants. That study found that species with larger colonies were no better than species with smaller colonies at collecting clumped seeds. In a second study, we integrated computer simulations, information science and computational analysis to re-analyze data. We found that seed intake patterns from larger colonies were more consistent with foraging patterns generated by behaviors that use information, such as recruitment and site fidelity, particularly for foraging on clustered distributions of resources. Finally, we studied recruitment behavior in large colonies of Argentine ants. Our results indicate that Argentine ants recruit nestmates to food directly from persistent nearby trails. Once ants find a new food source, they walk back and forth between the bait and sometimes share food by trophallaxis with nestmates on the trail. Recruiting ants from nearby persistent trails creates a dynamic circuit, like those found in other distributed systems, which facilitates a quick response to changes in available resources. These studies quantify how remembering and communicating information in a range of colony sizes increase foraging rates.
ant foraging, information, colony size
Level of Degree
UNM Biology Department
First Committee Member (Chair)
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Flanagan, Tatiana. "How ants turn information into food." (2015). http://digitalrepository.unm.edu/biol_etds/37