Workers of the ant Formica schaufussi forage as individuals and cooperate in groups to retrieve arthropod prey. In 2 sample years, group-transported prey were on average 6.8 and 4.7 times heavier than individually retrieved items, and the average loading ratios of groups were greater than the loading ratios of single foragers. Retrieval group size was adjusted to prey size, and prey transport velocity for individuals and groups tended to decrease with increasing prey weight. The efficiency of individual and group retrieval, estimated from calculations of the prey delivery rate to the nest (PDR) achieved by each foraging mode, varied as a function of prey size. Individual retrieval maximized PDR at a prey weight of 19.5 mg, and group transport maximized PDR at 190 mg. Although the PDR maxima of an individual in a group and a solitary forager were approximately equal, depending on prey size, group transport may maximize foraging efficiency. Group transport also decreased interference competition from sympatric ant species. Group-transported prey having a greater likelihood of successful retrieval were within the size range of prey that maximized foraging efficiency. Transport group size appeared to be more important in prey defense than in increasing prey transport velocity, suggesting an important role of group size in competitive ability.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology