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Resource heterogeneity affects demography of the Costa Rican ant Aphaenogaster araneoides

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2002

Terrence P. McGlynn
Affiliation:
University of San Diego, Department of Biology, 5998 Alcalá Park, San Diego, CA 92110, USA
Justin R. Hoover
Affiliation:
Gettysburg College, Department of Biology, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA
Geoffrey S. Jasper
Affiliation:
Gettysburg College, Department of Environmental Studies, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA
Megan S. Kelly
Affiliation:
University of San Diego, Department of Biology, 5998 Alcalá Park, San Diego, CA 92110, USA
Alexander M. Polis
Affiliation:
Gettysburg College, Department of Environmental Studies, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA
Catherine M. Spangler
Affiliation:
Gettysburg College, Department of Biology, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA
Bonnie Joy Watson
Affiliation:
University of San Diego, Department of Biology, 5998 Alcalá Park, San Diego, CA 92110, USA

Abstract

How do animals respond to an unpredictably heterogeneous environment? Ants foraging in the leaf litter of tropical wet forests experience unpredictably fluctuating food resources. To study how an ant species responds to these changes, foragers were tracked to determine home ranges of 51 colonies of Aphaenogaster araneoides, in three sites in a Costa Rican tropical wet forest. Of these colonies 16 were excavated to measure colony size, colony growth, and reproductive investment. These demographic variables were compared with two measures of home range quality: leaf litter dry weight and mass of arthropods. Home range areas of colonies were highly correlated with colony size, and moderately correlated with resource abundance. Colony growth was independent of colony size, as is found in other ants in unpredictable environments. The growth of colonies was closely associated with resource abundance. Production of the male reproductive caste was closely tied to the size of a colony rather than growth, but male production in slow-growing colonies was limited. Colonies foraging within high-quality environments grew at a faster rate, but reproduction was mainly correlated with colony size. Furthermore, it was found that the frequency of foragers in long-term treatment plots with supplemental food and reduced leaf-litter quality was not significantly different from the frequency of foragers in control plots. This rain-forest ant does not modify its home range areas in response to poor environments, and as a result, small-scale environmental heterogeneity strongly determines growth and reproduction.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2002 Cambridge University Press

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