IBN-9317853 Tschinkel Important basic insights into the evolution of social behavior have resulted from studies of the social organization of insects such as bees and ants in which colony members are closely related. A fundamental question in these cases concerns the relationship between the behavior of individuals and the success of the social unit, the hive or colony. This research will address an important component of colony organization, the dynamics of the feeding of the young (larvae) in highly social fire ants. The nutrition received by developing larvae probably affects the social role and size of individuals, the labor they can perform within the colony and the success of the colony as a reproductive unit. Dr. Tschinkel will study the quantitative patterns and "rules" that determine how ants feed larvae. The research will provide detailed description of feeding behavior with both liquid and solid foods, information on the sensitivity of adults to the hunger levels of the larvae and data on the effects of different feeding regimens on the role and sexual development of the larvae when grown. The research will provide the first full description of the rules of food distribution by individuals, will link individual behavior to characteristics of the colony as a whole, and will provide a possible mechanism for the developmental changes that occur as the colony grows. These results will make fundamental contributions to our understanding of the dynamics of social insect colonies and, therefore, to our understanding of the evolution of sociality. In addition, the fire ant is an introduced species that causes significant economic damage, and this research has the potential to further efforts to control it.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
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John A. Byers
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Florida State University
United States
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