Seminar: “Diacamma ants adjust liquid foraging strategies in response to viscosity” by Dr. Haruna Fujioka
Dr. Haruna Fujioka, Okayama University, Japan
Diacamma ants adjust liquid foraging strategies in response to viscosity
Ant foragers provide food to the rest of the colony, often requiring transport over long distances. Foraging for liquid is challenging because it is difficult to transport and share. Many social insects store liquids inside the crop to transport them to the nest, and then regurgitate to distribute to nest-mates through trophallaxis. Some ants instead transport liquids with a riskier behaviour called pseudotrophallaxis—holding a drop of liquid between the mandibles through surface tension. Ants share this droplet with nest-mates without ingestion or regurgitation. We hypothesised that ants optimize their liquid-collection approach depending on viscosity. Using Diacamma ant that employs both trophallaxis and pseudotrophallaxis, we investigated the conditions where each liquid-collection behaviour is favoured by measuring biophysical properties, collection time and reaction to food quality for typical and viscosity-altered sucrose solutions. We found that ants collected more liquid per unit time by mandibular grabbing than by drinking. At high viscosities ants switched liquid collection method to mandibular grabbing in response to viscosity and not to sweetness. Our results demonstrate that ants change transport and sharing methods according to viscosity–a natural proxy for sugar concentration–thus increasing the mass of sugar returned to the nest per trip.