Seminar: “Biomechanics of biting and cutting in leaf-cutter ants” by Dr. David Labonte
Dr. David Labonte, Imperial College London
Biomechanics of biting and cutting in leaf-cutter ants
Leaf-cutter ants cut leaf- or fruit-fragments to supply and maintain a fungus used as crop. Leaf-cutting occurs on an almost industrial scale, and at significant metabolic cost: Leaf-cutter ants are responsible for up to 15% of the defoliation in the Neotropics, and the aerobic scope of leaf-cutting is comparable to that of insect flight. In this talk, I discuss the extraordinary bite performance of leaf-cutter ants, the morphological specialisations which underpin it, and the ecological needs which drove its evolution. I will show preliminary results on the variation of the mechanical and metabolic costs of foraging across polymorphic foragers, and present recent efforts to develop robust and versatile computational tools for large-scale behavioural analysis of (social) insects on the basis of “synthetic” 3D data, computer vision, and machine learning.