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Scaling of Speed With Group Size in Cooperative Transport by the Ant Novomessor cockerelli

Penelitian - Researchers of the Mesa Community College University of Georgia and Arizona State University examined how group size affects the efficiency of cooperative food transport, a collective behavior that has evolved independently in many ant genera.

Cooperation allows colonies to retrieve food items too big for a single porter, with potential benefits that include broadening the colony's dietary range, evading competitors for rich items, and enhancing the efficiency with which food is moved.

Penelitian Scaling of Speed With Group Size in Cooperative Transport by the Ant Novomessor cockerelli

In some species transport is "superefficient," meaning that the per capita weight moved by porters increases with group size, without any loss of speed. Experiments on the desert ant Novomessor cockerelli, an adept cooperative transporter, did not support this hypothesis.

“We used simulations to explore a scenario in which ants vary in their intrinsic speed and the group's speed is limited by that of its slowest member,” said Stephen Pratt of the Arizona State University in Tempe.

“This proposed mechanism is analogous to other social groups where group efficiency is determined by the weakest link. We discuss how interactions among porters, mediated by the load itself, might explain such a constraint,” said Pratt said.

The team showed larger groups have a higher per capita rate of food delivery to the colony than do smaller groups or lone porters. This advantage has been shown only for swarm raiders such as the army ants and driver ants, and it may be associated with their distinctive mode of transport: porters straddle the load and face forward, allowing them to run in a common direction and in their normal posture.



The leading ant, typically the largest in the group, bears the bulk of the weight, while those behind her work to counter rotational forces and to prevent the load from dragging. Efficiency may contribute to the success of these ants' distinctive foraging strategy, in which populous societies are fueled by copious arthropod prey delivered over large trail networks.

Journal : Aurélie Buffin et al. Scaling of speed with group size in cooperative transport by the ant Novomessor cockerelli, PLOS ONE, October 9, 2018, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0205400

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