Nestmate Recognition in Social Insects

  • Faculty of IT, Monash University, Clayton CL_25Exh_Rm115 Clayton, VIC Australia

Presenter: Dr. Christoph Kleineidam, University of Konstanz, Germany

The ability to flexibly allocate workers to different tasks at the same time (colony multitasking) underlies the vast ecological success of social insects. While we have models for a number of individual tasks, we are far from understanding how task allocation is organized at the colony level and how it is adjusted to changing conditions. The main focus in trying to decipher the underlying mechanism has been on internal processes among the workers of colony (response thresholds, genetics, polymorphism etc.). External processes, e.g. interactions with the environment and communication among colony members also play an important role. One of the most important communication mechanisms for adjusted task allocation in ants is not well understood:  the impact of direct interactions among workers via antennation and trophallaxis for task allocation and organization of the collective. Direct interactions are crucial in modulating the individual’s decision to perform a task. Understanding how interactions and interaction networks modulate task allocation is an important missing piece in our understanding of social organization in societies. I will present our system, the investigation of nestmate recognition in ants, and will demonstrate how interactions with nestmates provide a social context for task allocation.