Influence of queen phenotype, investment and maternity apportionment on the outcome of fights in cooperative foundations of the ant Lasius niger.
Authors - Serge Aron, Nathalie Steinhauer, Denis Fournier.
"Cooperative colony founding (pleometrosis) in social insects is an ideal model for investigating how cooperation and competition shape social behaviour among unrelated individuals. In many ant species, foundress associations are more competitive and the colonies survive better compared with single-queen colonies. However, cooperation among queens breaks down at the time of emergence of the first workers, and all but one queen are eliminated. Because no sexuals are produced in incipient colonies, the surviving queen will monopolize the future reproductive success of the colony, while defeated queens will have zero fitness. We examined factors affecting queens' survival prospects during reversion to single-queen colonies in cooperative foundations of the ant Lasius niger. By combining phenotypic and genotypic analyses, we determined how queen's size, individual investment and maternity apportionment influence the outcome of fights. Larger queens were more likely to survive fights. However, smaller queens survived up to one-third of the fighting. By contrast, neither weight loss at the time of a fight outbreak, a measure of queens' relative investment in brood production, nor maternity apportionment influenced the outcome of fights. Moreover, investment of cofoundresses and partitioning of reproduction were not adjusted to queen's size, suggesting that reproductive competition among queens does not occur before the emergence of the first workers. These results lead us to consider pleometrotic associations in L. niger as a ‘best of a bad job’, whereby the benefits of joint founding and the probability of surviving the conflict might be sufficient for smaller queens to embark on cooperative foundations."
Taking this paper into consideration, I have decided to attempt to measure the Queens that are in the experiment, I am also considering adding another approach to the experiment, Ant Holleufer is currently doing this exact same experiment using Camponotus Ligniperda, should i keep a test colony of 3 Queens individually in tubes, within the same set up, a gap only big enough for the workers to fit through, this means the Queens will never meet, will the workers form a co-operative colony?
We know the test colonies are expected to have a 66.6% loss rate, from 15 founding Queens in theory, unless a rare decision of co-operation is made 10 Queens wont make it in this experiment.
The experiment is not to compare the relation of loss between co-operative founding and single founding but to gauge the benefits of this process, its effects on the colonies long term survival and ultimate success. the real data will be collected towards the end of the experiment when we find out how they faired over hibernation, we have looked at other studies that boasted a higher immunity to disease when co-founding, a capacity to produce a large work force in a short amount of time, Lasius Niger nuptial flights occur not long prior to the onset of winter, they do not have long to establish a work force and prepare to lock down until summer returns.
I've already had a few comments regarding the losses of Queens, losses over the founding period of Lasius Niger colonies are high, this species has some of the largest nuptial flights recorded, their flights can be tracked from space, pleometrosis is a tactic this species had adopted, the experiment is not forcing un-natural behavior, or creating any higher losses than would be created through the founding process both in captivity and in the wild, if 5 colonies in the wild formed with 3 co-founding Queens, eventually they too would suffer a 66.6% loss of Queen population.
Ultimately this experiment could put an answer to the question which method is better, single founding or co-founding, with hard data to suggest & prove in some cases why it could be the superior method despite the calculated loss, a loss which is negated by nature, and the natural losses this species endures in the continuation of its species life cycle. taking advantage of a process they use for survival.
This experiment is exciting because it seeks to document and collect data that could aid or be taken for other research, documenting, diet through measured portions, brood production & numbers/growth per colony, Queen sizes, temperatures, humidity, this experiment will be carried out over a much longer period than previous studies I have encountered that focus around pleometrosis, to my knowledge of the experiments i have read, none, seem to compare the long term survival or effect post hibernation between single founding & co-founding colonies, I will record the lifespan of the Queens in the test colonies and the single colonies, I expect losses with single Queens, but with so many possible factors it would be impossible to sumise the expected percentage, I aim to document any behaviours in regards to pleometrosis, if I can observe any. or find a way to record the test colonies 24/7.
Ants & The Colonialist