Foraging Behavior in Pogonomyrmex salinus When Colonies Overlap in Their Ranges

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Student Presentation

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Ian Robertson


Exclusionary behavior, where one group dominates another for a resource, is common in many competitive species. Such may be the case in the Owyhee harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex salinus, a granivorous (seed-eating) ant found throughout sagebrush-steppe of southern Idaho. These ants forage within a 20 m radius of their nest, and in many cases nests are packed tightly enough on the landscape to create areas of overlap in potential foraging ranges. I will conduct an experiment to determine whether ants from one colony exclude ants from another colony from foraging within areas of overlap. After mapping the foraging boundaries used by ants from one colony, I will erect plastic barriers to impede the ants’ use of these areas. I will then conduct observations to determine whether ants from nearby colonies subsequently move into the area to forage. Such an occurrence would be evidence that the ants of nearby colonies had previously been excluded from the area. The results of this experiment will help delineate the rules by which harvester ants forage, and may provide insight into how colonies are spaced around resources.

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