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Polydomy in red wood ants

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JournalInsectes Sociaux
DateE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jan 2014
DatePublished (current) - May 2014
Issue number2
Volume61
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)111-122
Early online date14/01/14
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Polydomy, a single colony spread between multiple nests, is a widespread life history strategy in ants. The mechanisms by which a polydomous colony functions, and the fitness benefits this nesting strategy provides, are poorly understood. Here we review what is known about polydomy in the well-studied and ecologically important Formica rufa group. We focus particularly on the ecological fitness benefits polydomy may provide to members of the F. rufa group. We discuss the well-documented association in this group between polygyny (multiple queens in a colony) and polydomy, and how this relationship may favour colony reproduction by budding. We argue that although polygyny and reproduction by budding may drive a colony to spread between multiple nests, the maintenance of prolonged communication between these nests needs further explanation in terms of fitness benefits. The potential benefits of polydomy in the F. rufa group are discussed, specifically how polydomy may help a colony: exploit resources, dominate spaces, or lower the cost of stochastic nest destruction. The potential consequences of polydomy for the social organisation of a colony are explored. We also highlight gaps in current knowledge, and suggest future research directions.

    Research areas

  • polydomy, wood ants, Formica, social evolution, spatial ecology, reproductive conflict, polygyny, foraging, networks

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