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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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Boxplots represent the relative distance of corpses from the larvae patch. Above each pair of boxplots is a miniature of the nest (85 × 85 mm) on a given day after the introduction of corpses, where each small black dot represents one corpse (data from all colonies are pooled).
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RSBL20140306F2: Boxplots represent the relative distance of corpses from the larvae patch. Above each pair of boxplots is a miniature of the nest (85 × 85 mm) on a given day after the introduction of corpses, where each small black dot represents one corpse (data from all colonies are pooled).

Mentions: In FR colonies, corpses were removed rapidly, and none remained in the nest after 4 days. In LR colonies, most corpses remained in the nest until the fourth day. After 8 days, workers managed to cut some corpses into pieces and thus succeeded in removing these body parts out of the ‘small-holes’ nest entrance. Some colonies ultimately removed all corpses though on average 3.7 ± 2.6 (N = 91) corpses remained inside the nest. In this latter case, corpses were gradually moved away from brood patches (GLMM, χ2 = 85.1, d.f. = 1, p < 0.001). From Day 4, no corpses were in contact with larvae. From Day 12, most corpses were located in the most remote areas of the nest (often corners), with a relative distance to larvae of more than 0.75 (figure 2).Figure 2.


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

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

Boxplots represent the relative distance of corpses from the larvae patch. Above each pair of boxplots is a miniature of the nest (85 × 85 mm) on a given day after the introduction of corpses, where each small black dot represents one corpse (data from all colonies are pooled).
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

RSBL20140306F2: Boxplots represent the relative distance of corpses from the larvae patch. Above each pair of boxplots is a miniature of the nest (85 × 85 mm) on a given day after the introduction of corpses, where each small black dot represents one corpse (data from all colonies are pooled).
Mentions: In FR colonies, corpses were removed rapidly, and none remained in the nest after 4 days. In LR colonies, most corpses remained in the nest until the fourth day. After 8 days, workers managed to cut some corpses into pieces and thus succeeded in removing these body parts out of the ‘small-holes’ nest entrance. Some colonies ultimately removed all corpses though on average 3.7 ± 2.6 (N = 91) corpses remained inside the nest. In this latter case, corpses were gradually moved away from brood patches (GLMM, χ2 = 85.1, d.f. = 1, p < 0.001). From Day 4, no corpses were in contact with larvae. From Day 12, most corpses were located in the most remote areas of the nest (often corners), with a relative distance to larvae of more than 0.75 (figure 2).Figure 2.

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