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Keep the nest clean: survival advantages of corpse removal in ants.

Diez L, Lejeune P, Detrain C - Biol. Lett. (2014)

Bottom Line: However, the benefits of these behaviours in terms of colony survival have been scarcely investigated.From Day 8 onwards, the survival of adult workers was significantly higher in colonies that were allowed to remove corpses normally.These results show the importance of nest maintenance and prophylactic behaviour in social insects.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Unit of Social Ecology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium lisediez@gmail.com.

ABSTRACT
Sociality increases exposure to pathogens. Therefore, social insects have developed a wide range of behavioural defences, known as 'social immunity'. However, the benefits of these behaviours in terms of colony survival have been scarcely investigated. We tested the survival advantage of prophylaxis, i.e. corpse removal, in ants. Over 50 days, we compared the survival of ants in colonies that were free to remove corpses with those that were restricted in their corpse removal. From Day 8 onwards, the survival of adult workers was significantly higher in colonies that were allowed to remove corpses normally. Overall, larvae survived better than adults, but were slightly affected by the presence of corpses in the nest. When removal was restricted, ants removed as many corpses as they could and moved the remaining corpses away from brood, typically to the nest corners. These results show the importance of nest maintenance and prophylactic behaviour in social insects.

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(a) Survival curves of workers (mean ± s.e.). (b) Survival curves of larvae (mean ± s.e.). Squares, FR colonies; circles, LR colonies.
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RSBL20140306F1: (a) Survival curves of workers (mean ± s.e.). (b) Survival curves of larvae (mean ± s.e.). Squares, FR colonies; circles, LR colonies.

Mentions: We quantified the impact of corpse removal on the demography of ant colonies. Overall, workers in LR colonies survived less than those in FR colonies (Cox model, z = 13.5, p < 0.0001). At the end of the experiment, 87.4 ± 10.1% (N = 15) of workers in LR colonies and 94.0 ± 7.1% (N = 15) of workers in FR colonies were still alive (figure 1a). In order to understand at what time these differences became significant, we compared the survival rate day by day, finding workers' survival in FR colonies was higher than worker's survival in LR colonies from Day 8 onwards (Wilcoxon rank sum test, from Day 8 to Day 50, W ≥ 162, N = 15, p < 0.05).Figure 1.


Keep the nest clean: survival advantages of corpse removal in ants.

Diez L, Lejeune P, Detrain C - Biol. Lett. (2014)

(a) Survival curves of workers (mean ± s.e.). (b) Survival curves of larvae (mean ± s.e.). Squares, FR colonies; circles, LR colonies.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4126623&req=5

RSBL20140306F1: (a) Survival curves of workers (mean ± s.e.). (b) Survival curves of larvae (mean ± s.e.). Squares, FR colonies; circles, LR colonies.
Mentions: We quantified the impact of corpse removal on the demography of ant colonies. Overall, workers in LR colonies survived less than those in FR colonies (Cox model, z = 13.5, p < 0.0001). At the end of the experiment, 87.4 ± 10.1% (N = 15) of workers in LR colonies and 94.0 ± 7.1% (N = 15) of workers in FR colonies were still alive (figure 1a). In order to understand at what time these differences became significant, we compared the survival rate day by day, finding workers' survival in FR colonies was higher than worker's survival in LR colonies from Day 8 onwards (Wilcoxon rank sum test, from Day 8 to Day 50, W ≥ 162, N = 15, p < 0.05).Figure 1.

Bottom Line: However, the benefits of these behaviours in terms of colony survival have been scarcely investigated.From Day 8 onwards, the survival of adult workers was significantly higher in colonies that were allowed to remove corpses normally.These results show the importance of nest maintenance and prophylactic behaviour in social insects.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Unit of Social Ecology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium lisediez@gmail.com.

ABSTRACT
Sociality increases exposure to pathogens. Therefore, social insects have developed a wide range of behavioural defences, known as 'social immunity'. However, the benefits of these behaviours in terms of colony survival have been scarcely investigated. We tested the survival advantage of prophylaxis, i.e. corpse removal, in ants. Over 50 days, we compared the survival of ants in colonies that were free to remove corpses with those that were restricted in their corpse removal. From Day 8 onwards, the survival of adult workers was significantly higher in colonies that were allowed to remove corpses normally. Overall, larvae survived better than adults, but were slightly affected by the presence of corpses in the nest. When removal was restricted, ants removed as many corpses as they could and moved the remaining corpses away from brood, typically to the nest corners. These results show the importance of nest maintenance and prophylactic behaviour in social insects.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus