What is it about?
Among all activities displayed by ant colonies, searching for food is essential for all in‐ dividuals survival. However, many external activities are hazardous or restrictive for the entire society. Even though leaf‐cutter ants are highly successful insects, they are subject to extreme aspects of foraging, as raindrops and wind. Although recruitment and food exploitation are known to change with temperature and humidity, baromet‐ ric pressure changes and how they affect ant behavior remain unknown. We aimed to determine how an increase or decrease in barometric pressure might modify foraging strategies of the leaf‐cutter ant Atta sexdens compared to steady pressure. The first modification observed in the workers behavior was the scouts greater promptness in leaving the nest when the barometric pressure decreased. Regard to the foragers, there was no difference in the number of individuals recruited for collecting leaves. However, it was cut and brought into the nest 1.5 and 2 times more leaves during the pressure drop, respectively. The reason for this foraging efficiency as a whole was ultimately the sum of the efficiency of each forager. The shifts in behavior, there‐ fore, could be related to the indirect consequences of a pressure decrease, such as rainfall and strong winds, both strong constraints on ants on a trail. This is the first report of barometric pressure affecting the behavior of a social insect under con‐ trolled conditions.
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Why is it important?
Because the foraging efficiency of ants as a whole was ultimately the sum of the efficiency of each forager.
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This page is a summary of: Foraging activity of leaf‐cutter ants is affected by barometric pressure, Ethology, October 2019, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/eth.12967.
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