DSSS - Behaviour and infection in clonal ant societies
- Date: May 5, 2023
- Time: 03:00 PM - 04:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
- Speaker: Dr. Yuko Ulrich
- Principal Investigator, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
- Location: NO.002, MPI für Intelligente Systeme
Group-living is a widespread strategy that comes with particular costs and benefits. For example, it allows for division of labour between group members, which can improve efficiency, but it also increases the risk of disease outbreaks. I will describe recent work on the emergence and regulation of division of labour, as well as ongoing work on the link between social organisation and infection dynamics in an experimentally accessible social insect, the clonal raider ant Ooceraea biroi.
Many social groups rely on division of labour between group members to function. Division of labour in turn requires stable behavioural variation between colony members. We investigated how behavioural diversity between identical individuals is generated and modulated by the social environment. We find that increases in colony size alone can generate the emergence of rudimentary but stable division of labour among otherwise identical workers. We then show how different sources of heterogeneity in group composition have distinct effects on behaviour and evaluate these results against the predictions of a widely used model for self-organised division of labour in social insects.
We then probe the interplay between behaviour and infection using experiments with nematodes (Diploscapter sp.) that naturally infect the head of ants. We find that the uneven distribution of these parasites across genetically identical hosts in ant colonies reflects division of labour between these hosts, showing that differences in infection can emerge from behavioural variation alone. Infections in turn affect colony social organisation by causing infected workers to stay in the nest, thereby increasing spatial overlap between hosts.